Strength In Numbers?

Homeopathy is a popular but worthless “alternative medicine” that involves diluting disease compounds in water to a degree that there is little chance that any of the compound molecules remain in the resulting container of water that is then marketed as cures for everything from asthma to cancer. Proponents claim that the water’s “memory” inoculates the patient from the disease.
In a recent debate over the efficacy of homeopathy “drugs”, a spokesperson for homeopathy seriously made the statement…

If [the homeopathic drugs] didn’t work beyond the placebo effect, why do people keep buying them?

Let’s have some audience participation. Here are your possible responses to this rhetorical question.

  1. Because claims of the drug’s efficacy are true.
  2. Because of the placebo effect.

In the absence of any other evidence, the only warranted answer is #2, and is amazingly even part of the question. If you chose the 1st option, you may well be among those who employ the same basic argument in other domains of inquiry. One of the most common defenses of religion I have heard is in a rhetorical question of the same form.

If there were no truth in my religion beyond a placebo effect, why do so many people believe it?

I’ll give you the same 2 basic options.

  1. Because claims of the religion’s efficacy are true.
  2. Because of the placebo effect.

If there is efficacy in either homeopathy or religion, it will not be demonstrated by someone pointing out the number of believers. In fact, if a believer employs this argument to their own particular religion which promises to provide superior wisdom to its faithful, then it has failed since the argument that the reliability of a claim increases as the number of believers increases is a logical fallacy called argumentum ad populum. To persist in this argument will require holding that the god of your religion has his own rules of logic, not a direction I’d suggest you take.

The Japanese Irreligious

fantasyI have a theory. Those with rich fantasy lives tend to be less religious.

Here in Japan, comic books (manga) and cartoons (anime) are a staple of a very literate public with almost 2 billion manga books and magazines sold in Japan in 1995. At the same time, the percentage of Japanese atheists and agnostics is at a very high 65%.

I’d like to suggest that the mundane reality of the average Japanese life is alleviated by an escape into fantasy. At the same time, Japaneses are in no way confused about which world is real and which is fiction. The escapism is a conscious choice that is activated in a discrete part of their minds, and is not at any time entangled and confused with their material realities. This notion was substantiated by several of my Japanese friends who marveled that Americans so easily fall prey to claims of miracles and notions of god. A lonely missionary I meet regularly in Tokyo’s Yoyogi park as he attempts to evangelize Japanese “sinners” admits the fact that Japanese very quickly dismiss the miraculous claims of the bible.

Americans, however, are much more inclined to combine the elements of myth and reality. Continue reading

Tom Clark On Naturalism

0909DSCN4165_a_ (2)The interview of Tom Clark by Ginger Campbell linked to below is unquestionably one of the best commentaries on the essence and implications of naturalism out there. It confronts head-on the issues of free will, morality, and what it is to be human.

[ MP3 ]   [ TRANSCRIPT ]

Ginger Campbell is the host of both Books and Ideas and Brain Science Podcast, 2 great podcasts that are cherry pie for inquisitive minds.

EXCERPTS FROM THE INTERVIEW

It says that we are all natural creatures, that nature is what there is, and that nature is enough: That we don’t need anything supernatural to describe ourselves, nor do we need anything supernatural in order to lead meaningful, moral, and effective lives.

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Robert G. Ingersoll

ingersollThe promotion of reason in opposition to faith is nothing new. Colonel Robert Green Ingersoll (August 11, 1833 – July 21, 1899) was a Civil War veteran, American political leader, and orator during the Golden Age of Freethought, noted for his broad range of culture and his defense of agnosticism. His arguments have not lost their force. Also a prominent member of the Republican Party, he refused to run for office, and is best known for his speeches for which the public paid as much as $1 to attend. Below is a collection of some of his most salient quotes from books and speeches.


  1. Nothing is greater than to break the chains from the bodies of men — nothing nobler than to destroy the phantom of the soul.
    —Robert Green Ingersoll, quoted from the Address, Ingersoll the Magnificent, delivered by Joseph Lewis on August 11th 1954 dedicating, as a Public Memorial, the house in which Robert G Ingersoll was born, Dresden, Yates County, in the state of New York.


  2. The man who does not do his own thinking is a slave, and is a traitor to himself and to his fellow-men.
    —Robert Green Ingersoll, “The Liberty of Man, Woman and Child”


  3. They knew no better, but I do not propose to follow the example of a barbarian because he was honestly a barbarian.
    —Robert Green Ingersoll, “The Limitations of Toleration”


  4. The doctrine of eternal punishment is in perfect harmony with the savagery of the men who made the orthodox creeds. It is in harmony with torture, with flaying alive, and with burnings. The men who burned their fellow-men for a moment, believed that God would burn his enemies forever.
    —Robert Green Ingersoll, “Crumbling Creeds”


    Continue reading

God’s Checklist

Just a few biblical incoherencies for you to ponder. And if you’d like to correct any doctrinal assumptions he employs, first send me the standard of hermeneutics you use to interpret the bible. No ad hoc plugs without submitting such a standard. The bible is not a free-for-all unless you side with postmodernists. The doctrinal assumptions in this video are very mainstream.