Thursday, September 23, 2010

How Harry Potter flew: Wind is the answer says scientist

A computer engineer has created a computer model showing how it was possible for Harry Potter to fly using natural means. Sudden gusts of a powerful wind like a vortex could, in theory, have made it feasible that Harry Potter didn't need a supernatural cause in order for him to fly.

This should be online front page news! Why not? This was.

Wind could have split Red Sea, scientist says

The parting of the Red Sea is one of the many miracles described in the Bible and a spectacular feat of early special effects in the 1956 Hollywood epic The Ten Commandments.

But now a Christian engineer claims to have proved the phenomenon has a basis in science.

First of all, notice how a computer programmer in the story becomes a scientist in the headline. Wow. The sub editor probably thought that since a programmer and a scientist may use a computer for more than just email and facebook, they must have the same amount of training in, well, nerdiness. So they are the same thing, right?

Also, a computer program itself becomes science. No! A computer program is written to help develop a hypothesis. The hypothesis itself may be completely wrong and thus the program. Science is what we do to determine if the hypothesis has credence or not.

Before we even try to explain a phenomena, surely the first task is to determine if the event even took place. Now in the case of the Exodus, there has been no archaeological evidence what so ever that such an event took place. Here are some references:

Did the Red Sea part? No evidence, archaeologists say
The exodus
The Bible Unearthed

Anyway, here we have a Christian apologist, Carl Drews, (who in this case should really be called a Jewish apologist since this really is a Jewish story and not a Christian one) writing some code and fiddling with some parameters. It turns out that by tweaking the parameters just right, the program can cause the waters to separate. And of course, if it can happen on a computer it must be able to happen in real life.

Now have a look at something he wrote in one of his essays discussing another event in the bible:

2. The sun moved backwards for Joshua and for Hezekiah.

Here we encounter our first hoax, involving Harold Hill and the NASA computers. It was a sin to make up this hoax. It is a smaller sin to propagate it without verifying the facts, but certain evangelists do just that. The idea behind the story is to make up some scientific-sounding story to explain a Biblical event. This pattern appears later in creationism literature, in supplying details of the catastrophes claimed to be part of the Flood events.

My objection to the Biblical story is that I don't see how this could have happened without leaving some geological trace, and without the Book of Jashar mentioned in Joshua 10:13 I don't have enough details for a good analysis.

Your honour, I rest my case.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A few simple questions

Ages ago I asked my grandfather the following questions mainly because I wanted him to understand the way my philosophies have been shaped.
  • Do you only follow your faith because that is what your were born into?
  • If you were born into a different religion, would you have been just as ardent in your faith?
  • When and why did you stop believing in ideas such as Father Christmas or the Easter Bunny?
  • Do you apply this reasoning (ie. why you stopped believing in the Easter Bunny) to all aspects of your belief systems?
These should be questions that everyone must ask themselves in order to justify whatever belief system or philosophy they follow. And the answers must be consistent.
I find it amusing that my grandmother is so proud of me that as a 12 year old I read the bible. And when she asks me why I don't go to church or believe in a god, she seems amazed that the answer is "because I've read the bible".

On reflection, here are a few more questions that I could have put to him.

  • If there was no god, would you still act the way you do?
  • Would you completely change you morals?
  • How would you determine if something was right or wrong?
  • If there was no afterlife, would you change the things you do to improve this world rather than hoping the next one is better?
I don't know if any if these question would have made him seen the world through my eyes. Most likely not.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Deadpool '10 update

Vale former Tour de France winner Laurent Fignon.

His passing means there is an update to the leader board.

I've hit the front.