Hitchens’ Razor


Hitchens’ razor is an epistemological rule of thumb which asserts that any person who makes a claim about ‘the way the world is’ takes on the burden of proof for proving it is so.

The razor is usually formulated as follows:

What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

It is a translation of the Latin proverb Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur (What is freely asserted is freely deserted). Near the end of the 20th century, the razor was revived and popularised by the British-Amercian journalist and author Christopher Hitchens, hence its modern name.

Kansas Classrooms


I can’t teach you about safe sex because it might encourage you to become promiscuous.

I can’t tell you what airbags do. That information will make you think it’s okay to start crashing into things.

I’m sorry class. We can no longer study Mexico. As you’d all run away to Tijuana if I told you what was there.

If I teach you girls how to rescue a burnt casserole, how can I trust you to follow the teachings of Héloise?

I’m afraid I can’t tell you how Hannibal crossed the Alps. If I did, you crazy kids are likely to conquer the prom with elephants. Oops.

Trigonometry will no longer be taught. You could use that knowledge to calculate the trajectory of eggs thrown at my Geo Metro.

We won’t be using safety glasses this year in shop class. I believe anyone who gets a word chip in their eye have it coming.

Science has been cancelled because your parents prefer to believe in magic.

Big Fat Whale, Brian McFadden 2006

Why Facts do not Matter


Social scientists have some intriguing explanations for why people persist in misjudgements despite strong contrary evidence. In fact, studies conducted over the past 30 years show that attempts to refute false information often backfire and lead people to hold on to their misperceptions even more strongly.

A 2015 behavioural science article examined the puzzle of why nearly one-third of U.S. parents believe that childhood vaccines cause autism, despite overwhelming medical evidence that there’s no such link. In such cases, the study noted, “arguing the facts doesn’t help — in fact, it makes the situation worse.” The reason is that people tend to accept arguments that confirm their views and discount facts that challenge what they believe.[1] Continue reading

Milk Myth?


“Milk increases mucous.”


Ruling:
False. It is just a placebo effect.

Analysis:
According to the study Relationship between milk intake and mucus production in adult volunteers challenged with rhinovirus-2, the test subjects ‘who believe “milk makes mucus” or reduce milk intake with colds reported significantly more cough and congestion symptoms, but they did not produce higher levels of nasal secretions.’ The researchers concluded that no statistically significant overall association can be detected between milk and dairy product intake and symptoms of mucus production in healthy adults, either asymptomatic or symptomatic, with rhinovirus infection.

See other: Mythconceptions?

Warts Myth?


“People can catch warts from toads.”


Ruling:
False. Warts are unique to humans. Toads do not have them.

Analysis:
There are no amphibians that give you warts. This myth has been around for a long time and is probably related to the fact that many frogs and toads have warty looking bumps on their skin. These are glands and do not secrete anything that can cause people to have warts. Although some skin secretions of some amphibians may irritate your skin and cause a rash. Warts are actually caused by viruses.

See other: Mythconceptions?

Alcohol Myth?


“Cooking removes alcohol.”


Ruling:
Mostly true. The rate by which alcohol is burned off depends on the method of cooking.

Analysis:
Studies show not all the alcohol is burned off: if a dish is left to simmer for hours, most of the alcohol will go away; but after 20 minutes of simmering, up to 50 percent of it can stick around. Flambéing leaves even more alcohol behind, and even less of it escapes during baking, because the alcohol has to work its way out of the batter.

See other: Mythconceptions?

Conversations: Unintelligent Design?


Zoe
The biologist J.B.S. Haldane is reported to have said that, if there is a God, He has “an inordinate fondness for beetles.” What do you think about that observation?

Helena
To be honest, one would have hoped that an observation this devastating would have closed the book on creationism for all time.

Sappho
The truth is that, while there are now around three hundred and fifty thousand known species of beetles, God appears to have an even greater fondness for viruses. Biologists estimate that there are at least ten strains of virus for every species of animal on earth. Many viruses are benign, of course, and some ancient virus may have played an important role in the emergence of complex organisms.

Helena
Unfortunately, viruses tend to use organisms like you and me as their borrowed genitalia. Many of them invade our cells only to destroy them, destroying us in the process—horribly, mercilessly, relentlessly. Viruses like HIV, as well as a wide range of harmful bacteria, can be seen evolving right under our noses, developing resistance to antiviral and antibiotic drugs to the detriment of everyone.

Sappho
Evolution both predicts and explains this phenomenon; the book of Genesis does not. How can you imagine that religious faith offers the best account of these realities, or that they suggest some deeper, compassionate purpose of an omniscient being? Continue reading

15/ix mmxvi


Viruses can get viruses. A new one recently discovered in a French cooling tower was found to be infected by another, smaller one.

In ‘The Sword In The Stone’ (1963), Merlin the Magician wears pink boxer shorts.

The Trojan Horse was in fact Greek.

According to Islam, the robe and banner of Muhammed were green. Muslims also believe everyone in paradise wears green silk robes.

During World War II, the British had an official “Hate Training Academy”. It was stopped because it made soldiers too depressed.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts