Category Archives: BPSDB

Brief Notes on Bad Physics

BPSDBThings I’ve encountered in my travels or been told about but don’t have time to discuss in detail:

Well-known pseudoscientist Myron Evans is trying to start a university to promote his particular brand of highly gussied-up crank physics. According to the Welsh news, Evans plans to kick off “Myron Evans University” (not unduly troubled by modesty, is he?). Reporter Martin Shipton gives a standard he-said, she-said summary:

He claims to have formulated a “unified field theory” which will revolutionise modern physics, and while he has the strong support of some academics, the theory has been dismissed by others.

Oh, those vicious academics, always eager to knock a man’s leek about his pate on St. Davy’s Day. Incidentally, the sugar daddy for this bit of self-aggrandizement is Francesco Fucilla, supposedly a “generous oil multi-millionaire” who saw Evans’s “work” on the Internet; as far as I can tell, Fucilla is actually a moderately prosperous, semi-retired engineer who doesn’t have nearly the financial capital to start a university. He’s credited as chief geophysicist at the Palm Harbor, Florida “Institute of Basic Research” — which the article erroneously locates in California — and which was founded by “I can burn water for fuel and I hate relativity” crank Ruggero Santilli.

The more you delve into serious crankery, the more weirdness you find; I’ll probably be returning to this subject soon.

Next up:

Feeling thirsty for quantum woo? Do your genetics feel unhighlighted? Are your cells vibrating at the wrong frequencies of consciousness? Then you might be interested in the Human Design System:

Strategy according to type, and inner authority for decision making are the primary tools offered by the Human Design System. According to proponents of Human Design, when someone experiments with their strategy and authority, it transforms their life, one decision at a time. Through each decision they can begin to discover their uniqueness, and they find the correct alignment of their own particular trajectory. In addition, by experimenting with strategy and trying out decision making with the individual’s inner authority, each person comes to their own conclusion about the validity of the information from their own experience.

At a practical level, Human Design offers a new process of decision making. It is not a new mental strategy or type-casting philosophy. It is about transferring the decision making from the mind to the inner authority of the body. Every cell in the body has it’s own intelligence, it’s own memory capacity, and according to Human Design, it’s own frequency of consciousness. This bio-intelligence, the consciousness of the form itself becomes the source of the inner authority for decision making.

This might be the first bit of woo I’ve seen which invokes magnetic monopoles:
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Science Illiteracy of the Day

BPSDBToday’s installment of “We’re so ignorant about basic science you couldn’t make up the crap we say if you tried” comes from Y-Origins Connection, a magazine which uses “dramatic photos and contemporary graphics” to explain “both sides of the intelligent design debate,” namely the creationist side and the creationists’ view of the scientists’ side. This comes from their website, right up top:

Quantum mechanics has revealed that our material world is based upon an invisible world of subatomic particles that is totally non-material. And over 95% of our universe consists of dark matter and energy that is beyond scientific observation. Also, scientists are openly discussing dimensions beyond ours where walking through walls and teleportation could be realities. The dilemma for materialists is that these areas are beyond the purview of science.

They managed to pack at least one kind of wrong in each sentence. I’m impressed. The overall theme seems to be taking discoveries of science and claiming them to be beyond science. When that well of inspiration runs dry, they take bits of overheard science jargon (hep talk like “extra dimensions” or “quantum teleportation,” let’s say) and throw them together without regard to their meaning. Truly they are strong in the art of nonsense-fu.

A Pseudolinguist Does Pseudobiology

BPSDBM.J. Harper has a book available in your friendly local Barnes and Borders-A-Million, entitled The Secret History of the English Language. The short version of the professional critique of his linguistic claims is that they’re garbage. However, just as garbage attracts flies, so too will one kind of pseudoscience find happy companionship with another. (It occurs to me that I’m being a little unkind to flies with this metaphor.) Take what Harper says about biological evolution, in which he dredges out the old and tiresome canard that evolution is unfalsifiable:

Take the exemplar of all modern academic paradigms, the Theory of Evolution. There’s no question that the theory is valuable in so far as it has led more or less directly to the creation of the modern Life Sciences, but, true or false, the theory no less certainly contains the seeds of its own infinite survival. Having adopted a properly scientific root-and-branch model of speciation in which ex hypothesi all species must be demonstrably linked to other species, it permits the indefinite opening of new categories whenever a species cannot be demonstrably linked to other species. This has the unavoidable corollary that nothing can ever discovered from now until the end of time that can ever call the model into question.

That sound you hear is the figurative ghost of J. B. S. Haldane screaming, “Fossil rabbits in the sodding Precambrian!”

The modern understanding of evolution has multiple components, all of which are supported by countless interlocking lines of evidence. Common descent is one of these components, as is the principle of natural selection. Evidence could force us to revise our understanding of common descent, while leaving natural selection largely untouched. Other lines of evidence could conceivably challenge natural selection and show that it hasn’t operated to a significant extent over the history of life, but that evidence, to put it mildly, hasn’t yet come to light. In short, each component is falsifiable, but Nature has not falsified them.
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Shorter Uncommon Descent

BPSDBTyler DiPietro finds a fresh example of steaming creationist nonsense at the weblog of Dembski and sycophants, Uncommon Descent. I summarize for the busy reader:

Because running an image of a face through a software filter makes it look less like a face, Darwin was a fuddy-duddy and materialism is on its last leg.

The cream on the cocoa is, however, this bit, from a commenter:

I’m not sure about the CSI [complex specified information] decreasing, however. Anyone able to get values of the CSI for each picture?

Gee, given that “complex specified information” has never been consistently defined, I wonder how one could compute it.

Panglossing Over the Dirty Bits

BPSDBThe evilutionary superscientist P-Zed has just finished debating a horrid simpleton (i.e., a professional creationist) on talk radio. Being a professor, P-Zed knew to read up in advance, which in this case was a laugh riot in itself, because it meant reading his opponent’s book, What Darwin Didn’t Know. One chapter, “Purposeful Design,” argues (among other things) that the sexual organs of the human female were designed to maximize the pleasure of the missionary position.

Yes, it’s another entry in the department of “you couldn’t make this up if you tried.” Better still, for my money, is this bit:
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Shorter Tony Campolo

BPSDBTony Campolo, author of Letters to a Young Evangelical (2006), has written a diatribe against Charles Darwin which shamelessly regurgitates the ignorant, hateful crap we’ve seen and debunked countless times before. To summarize his position,

Slandering the discoverer of a scientific truth and implying that science has made no progress in the past 150 years are both vitally necessary if we wish to love and honor Jesus.

We can also summarize the response from the seasoned Network travelers:

LOGIC — YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.

Fixing the defective wiring between Campolo’s ears is left as an exercise for the interested reader.

Joseph Chikelue Obi: Bully and Fraud

BPSDBOrac reports that the Quackometer Blog is once again under legal pressure. Last time, it was the Society of Homeopaths who wanted the Quackometer off the Net; now, it’s Joseph Chikelue Obi, the world’s foremost expert in metaphysico-theologo-cosmolonigology — excuse me, I meant to say, “nutritional immunomudulation.” He demanded one million pounds for each day that the “highly defamatory contents” of the Quackometer’s website continued to remain visible.

Unhappily, the Quackometer’s ISP caved to the legal pressure (that’s British libel law [EDIT: and spineless ISPs] for ya). But Sunclipse comes to you from the city where, a couple hundred years ago, some uppity colonials started lifting their pewter tankards and proclaiming, “I say, let us have ourselves a Revolution.” So suck it, Dr. Obi — you and everyone else who endangers human life by degrading the practice of medicine.
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Taylor County, Florida: WTF?

BPSDBThe people in charge of Taylor County, Florida’s science education are scientifically illiterate. Exhibit A:

Whereas, the new Sunshine State Standards for Science no longer present evolution as theory but as “the fundamental concept underlying all of biology and is supported in multiple forms of scientific evidence,” we are requesting that the State Board of Education direct the Florida Department of Education to revise/edit the new Sunshine State Standards for Science so that evolution is presented as one of several theories as to how the universe was formed.

Let’s look at that last part again:

. . . so that evolution is presented as one of several theories as to how the universe was formed.

Yes, and the American Revolution is only one of several explanations for the invention of agriculture, stone tools and fire.

Browsing the TalkOrigins Index of Creationist Claims, we find that the Taylor County school board has regurgitated CA041 and CA201, for starters. I never knew the job of a school board member was so easy!

Kindness from the 17th Dimension

BPSDBThe Honorable Frank Easterbrook, presiding over the judgment of the Q-Ray Ionized Bracelet (billed as a cure-all to end all cure-alls) had this to say in his ruling.

Defendants might as well have said: “Beneficent creatures from the 17th Dimension use this bracelet as a beacon to locate people who need pain relief, and whisk them off to their homeworld every night to provide help in ways unknown to our science.”

Sweet, sweet truth. Clearly, the aliens arrive in flying saucers, or better yet, flying Russell’s Teapots.

Judge Easterbrook also remarked thusly about “testimonials” which the Q-Ray people threw about to make their bracelet sound effective:

A person who experiences a reduction in pain after donning the bracelet may have enjoyed the same reduction without it. That’s why the “testimonial” of someone who keeps elephants off the streets of a large city by snapping his fingers is the basis of a joke rather than proof of cause and effect.

Tip o’ the fedora to Rebecca.

Shorter Sal Cordova

BPSDBSal Cordova, famous for calling Charles Darwin a puppy-killer, has attempted to reply to Tyler DiPietro’s demonstration that he, Cordova, is blitheringly ignorant of quantum physics. (Such ignorance would not be a crime, of course, except that Cordova is hell-bent on using quantum physics to prop up his “Advanced Creation Science.” See here, here, here, here and here if you’re morbidly curious.) Cordova’s latest reply compresses down rather nicely; once you do him the favor of cutting out the prevarications and the contradictions, the result resembles the following.

Stringing words I don’t understand together in a row is just as good as a logical argument, thank you very much, and if the laws of physics impose any limits on the “Ultimate Observer”, well then Jesus will come down and make everything better.

Click away if you want the gory details. . . .

I Get E-Mail

BPSDBBelow the fold is an e-mail I received this morning from Victor Senchenko, human space navigator, and his “Media Team.” According to his website, Senchenko can explain why homosexual humans exist (OK), why God doesn’t exist (not clear whether this is the Abrahamic tantrum-tosser or something more sophisticated) and why time also does not exist (and right there, we hear the fuses blow).

Greetings Blake,

Considering your involvement with science, the following Press Release may be of interest to you.

As an astute person, you probably would agree that for a long while humans – especially the scientists – had been claiming that they wanted to solve all the mysteries of physical existence. They have also repeatedly indicated that they wanted to understand the causes of human behavior.

I don’t know many scientists who’ve claimed they want to solve all the “mysteries of physical existence.” We’ll settle for solving one mystery big enough to get us tenure; the others are left as an exercise to the interested reader.
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Michael Egnor: 2400 Years Behind the Times

BPSDBI nearly sprayed my breakfast across my friend’s new flatscreen monitor when I saw the latest from Michael Egnor:

Clearly the brain, as a material substance, causes movement of the body, which is also a material substance. The links are nerves and muscles. But there is no material link between our ideas and our brains, because ideas aren’t material.

Mr. Spock, are your sensors detecting any signs of intelligent life?
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