The Four Types of Religious Beliefs and Behavior

Posted in Uncategorized on October 23, 2015 by sometimesafoggynotion

One common thing seen in critiques of religion is the claim that it is somehow wrong to criticize religion, which is heard not just from religious people but also from secular people who seem to have an idea that there is something inherently bad about criticizing religion.

Although it’s easy to point out the logical fallacies of such claims, but doesn’t see to sink in with such critics, who basically put religion as “off limits” for criticism.  I think no idea should ever be off limits from criticism and think that the type of idea that runs counter to modern secular values.

So I will attempt to re-frame the criticism of religion in a simple, straight-forward way so that it can easier to understand why it is important to be critical of religion.  To illustrate, I will divide religious beliefs and behavior into 4 different types.

TYPE I Religious Beliefs & Behavior
Type I religious beliefs and behavior refers to an inward focus of a religious individual.  So it is someone applying religious beliefs and practice to themselves and no one else.  Such religious beliefs can either be helpful or harmful to a person, depending on the circumstances, but the fact that they do not try to impose their religious beliefs on others makes this the best type.  And a lot of religions, particularly Eastern religions, full under this type.  If all religions were “TYPE I” then aside from doctrine claims, I would not complain about the religious behavior of people.

TYPE II Religious Beliefs & Behavior
Type II are religious beliefs in which the followers apply or condones applying their religious views and practice to themselves as well as other people who also follow the same religion, but that’s all. This is in-group focused religion and, as long as it is not being oppressive of other followers, I generally ignore such behavior.

TYPE III Religious Beliefs & Behavior
when any followers of a religion apply or condones applying obedience to the religion’s doctrines to self and to everyone else, even people who are not followers of the religion. This is done non-violently but will use the legal system to make religious rules into laws for everyone in a society.

TYPE IV Religious Beliefs & Behavior
Type IV is similar to Type III on when any followers of a religion apply or condones applying obedience to the religion’s doctrines to everyone else, even people who are not followers of the religion, but use violence and physical abuse to do so. This is the worst behavior by religious people in the world and is something I oppose in any form.

So to summarize the 4 types of religious belief and behavior:
Type I is inwardly focused
Type II is in-group focused
Type III is non-violently outwardly focused
Type IV is violently outwardly focused

Hammer Time

Posted in Uncategorized on October 10, 2015 by sometimesafoggynotion

October 10th (according to most sources, although some says it’s October 11th) is the anniversary of the Battle of Tours (732ce) in which Charles “The Hammer” Martel and his army decisively stopped the Moorish army, then continuing a seemingly unstoppable Islamic series of conquests, from taking over France and maybe even eventually the entire rest of Europe.

Thinking about it, at the time it may have seemed that this battle would have been better for Europe back then if Moors had won, because it was the start of the Islamic Golden Age with advances in mathematics and astronomy. But then as Europe eventually rose out of its Dark Age 600 years later, Islam sank into its own Dark Age which I think is essentially still going on.

But, either way, I think it’s worth drinking a beer to, given that drinking alcohol possibly wouldn’t allowed if the battle went the other way.

The Galloping Gish Rides Again

Posted in Uncategorized on February 12, 2015 by sometimesafoggynotion

Today is Darwin Day when I’m posting this, so much like last year, I’ll have another posting related to the scientific theory of evolution, in this case a personal story from wayback in the year 1988.

The Gish vs. Saladin Debate II  (May 10, 1988, at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama)

While in college at Auburn University, an event showed up on the activities schedule for a evolution vs. creationism debate. I’d never seen such a debate before and the mere idea intrigued me. Although I attended a Catholic high school (despite not being Catholic or, before graduating, a follower of any of the breakaway franchises it spawned), the science classes in it were truly science-based, so we learned about evolution without any religious doctrine being crudely inserted into it. I was already firmly in the evolution camp and didn’t see any real alternative to it.  So my thought going into the debate was: what the hell was the other side even going to say? Also at the time I had no idea who either of the men were, so the names “Kenneth Saladin” and “Duane Gish” meant absolutely nothing to me.  Only when the debate started did I find out who was on each side and that Gish was a creationist.

The debate was held in a student rec center that was sometimes used for presentations and concerts (the floor was a wooden basketball court and all the seating were temporary plastic chairs). The debate itself was time limited with each side granted a certain amount of minutes to give a presentation followed by an equal amount of time for the other side. While watching it, I thought Gish was just terrible, while Saladin did a fantastic job and completely destroyed him. I thought it was a complete and total rout of Gish by Saladin (I remember that I likened it to a score of 222-0 which ws the final score of the most lopsided game in football history when Georgia Tech beat Cumberland College).

But after the debate, I ran into a couple of friends there and talked to them about it.  They thought that both sides made good points (huh?!) and scored the debate as even (what?!!). And they thought that both sides should be taught in schools in a sense of fairness (wow?!!!).  I was so surprised by their views that I had no comeback then, although now looking back it shows that I was well along on the critical thinking road already back then.

Here’s a link to the transcripts of the debate ( LINK: http://infidels.org/library/modern/ken_saladin/saladin-gish2/ ) with some good notes as to the length of each side (I forgot that they each got 45 minutes at the beginning. Wow, the debate was a lot longer than I recall).  I do recall each side had a lot of slides and I thought Saladin’s were the best and mixed in a little good humor at times.

As for the infamous “Gish Gallops”, those had absolutely no effect on me and so I didn’t even notice anything like that in the debate.  Only years later did I even find out that was a style he used to “win” debates by throwing out a long list of claims so that the other side can’t counter all of them in the allotted time.

Looking back, I’m glad I was able to attend a Duane Gish debate at least once and, for me, it has been a key point in time of my life where I found out my viewpoint could not be easily swayed by talk alone. I need good evidence.

Taking a Shot At a Shot (Or Why The Flu Shot Sucks)

Posted in flu shot, vaccines with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 28, 2015 by sometimesafoggynotion

To start off, I’m not opposed to the flu shot and get it every year (having had the flu before, I learned my lesson the hard way), but some people do oppose it. And I’ve seen where others label anyone who is critical of the flu shot as an “anti-vaxxer” – but that’s not necessarily true. It is not only possible but very common for people to oppose the flu shot yet still support all other vaccines, in which case, I think it is completely wrong to call them anti-vaxxers.

I’ll illustrate this with an example via a personal story to back up that people like this do exist.

I have a lot of friends on Facebook from different social circles I’m in. One of those social circles is the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta (usually called UUCA for short). A few years ago, I noticed that a friend from this group started posting a lot of Facebook status updates about eating natural organic food. She seemed like she was basically becoming a naturopath (something that can be either good or bad from case-to-case, so I tend to avoid being too critical of it). Then one day, she posted a link to a terrible write-up on some blog (I wish I had saved the link, but I don’t have it anymore) that said a lot of misinformation about the flu shot (for example, the blog claimed that the flu shot has antifreeze and dangerous mercury in it, etc., etc. – the typical misinformation found too easily online).

I posted a comment to her posting basically begging her to not spread these awful lies. She then personally messaged me about my comment and we had a private discussion. And the discussion had the following exchange word-for-word in it:

me: “And being anti-vax is dangerous. Fewer people are getting their kids immunized due to the myths being spread around, so diseases once virtually conquered are returning, like Whooping Cough, due to the lack of mass immunity.”

her: “I’m not anti-vax. I’m anti flu-shot.”

That’s an exact quote (including the misplaced hyphen). She was not opposed to any vaccine other than the flu shot.

Later on I reflected on what she said about not being anti-vax, just anti-flu shot and realized I was wrong and made a hasty generalization mistake in calling her an anti-vaxxer and should have been simply critical of the misinformation she posted about the flu shot. I haven’t encountered her personally since then, but if I did I would apologize for calling her an anti-vaxxer.

Now, if you are getting hot under the collar still convincing that being anti-flu shot is just as bad as being against any other vaccine and are about to jump down to the comment section to give me a piece of your mind, just bear with me a bit more and read on as I provide what I think is a reasonable basis for being anti-flu shot.

First, I’m going to list a number of unnamed vaccines and their overall effectiveness and duration:

Vaccine (A): greater than 95% effective, lasting a lifetime

Vaccine (B): greater than 90% effective, lasting at least 10 years

Vaccine (C): greater than 90% effective, lasting at least 15 years

Vaccine (D): greater than 99% effective, lasting at least 18 years

Vaccine (E): greater than 96% effective, lasting at least 13 years

Vaccine (F): between 23% and at best 66% effective, lasting just a few months

Look at these numbers and guess which one is the flu vaccine?

[Jeopardy music goes here]

If you guessed “Vaccine (F)” is the flu vaccine (and hopefully phrased it in the form of a question), you are correct! And calling it “Vaccine (F)” is appropriate because compared to those other vaccines, I would give it a grade of “F” for Failing to measure up. (BTW, Vaccine (A) is the Measles vaccine, Vaccine (B) is the Mumps vaccine, Vaccine (C) is the Rubella vaccine, Vaccine (D) is the Polio vaccine, and Vaccine (E) is the Tetanus vaccine.)  Simply look at the CDC’s recommended vaccine schedule for adults ( LINK: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/hcp/imz/adult-shell.html ) and just add up the number of doses for any other vaccine and the number of doses for just influenza for a person from the age 19 until the age 65. Most vaccines for a person over that age range would need just 1, 2, or 3 doses total. Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis would need a booster every 10 years, so 5 doses total over that timespan. But the current flu shot means 47 doses over that span of time from age 19 until 65, far more than any other vaccine and more total doses than all the other vaccine doses combined.  The pie chart below shows that over 63% of the vaccine doses recommended over this span of time are just the flu shot (the slice in dark blue).

SAFN_Vaccination-doses

Face it, when it comes to vaccines, the flu vaccine is the runt of the litter. It’s the 80-pound weakling that can’t keep up with the other vaccines and maybe should be picked on and criticized (don’t worry, it’s just a shot so can’t hurt its feelings). In fact, I don’t think it should be called the “flu vaccine” and should just be called the “flu shot” because it simply doesn’t deserve being ranked alongside other vaccines that are truly great breakthroughs in medical science. Instead, the flu shot is really just a not-so-great placeholder until we get a real flu vaccine that is over 90% effective and just one shot lasts for a decade or more.

The main problem with creating an effective flu vaccine is that there are multiple strains of the influenza virus that are always rapidly evolving, which makes formulating an effective vaccine much more challenging than creating one for other, more stable viruses. The current method of trying to guess which strains will be prevalent in the next flu season is rather flawed which is why the effectiveness can vary so greatly. To make a very effective flu vaccine would require basing it on the parts of the influenza virus that do not change. (BTW, research for this “universal flu vaccine” is actually underway now and reportedly making good progress – LINK: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/288082.php )

And if you are going with the argument that the flu shot saves lives and start quoting stats about the number of deaths due to the flu, just note that according to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, “Most of the people who die have underlying illnesses or a weakened immune system.” In other words, they were already sickly to start with, so perfectly healthy adults rarely die of just the flu (assuming that guy knows what the hell he’s talking about). The official death rate of Influenza type A virus is less than 0.1% of people who catch the flu and factoring in the flu shot’s typically low effectiveness, there’s no easy way to even be sure having had the shot would have saved anyone who died. True, it makes sense that someone in one of the high risks groups for possibly developing flu-related complications (ex. pregnant women, children under 5, and adults over 65) should probably get the flu shot. And I remember one year (the 2000-2001 season) in which the flu shot was in such short supply that everyone was told to not get it unless we were in one of these high risk groups.  The fact is most people are not in these high risk groups and the overwhelming majority of which would recover from a bout of the flu on their own without any lasting effects.

As for the vaccination goal of “Herd Immunity” or the situation in which so many people have been vaccinated that even unvaccinated people are essentially safe from the virus. It’s a real possibility with other vaccines, but with the flu shot, it’s at best hypothetical and, realistically, it’s practically impossible. Yes, hypothetically speaking, on a year in which the flu shot has a higher than average overall effectiveness level (say 66%, which is the highest overall effectiveness I’ve ever seen listed for it) and also with a high percentage of people (say over 80%) getting the flu shot, then it would potentially achieve herd immunity. But this will not happen with the annual flu shot. Just never ever happen. Why not? Because of its duration. Other vaccines achieve their herd immunity from the cumulative effect of people getting that particular vaccine over many, many years – something that just doesn’t apply to the flu shot because for it, everyone in that 80% would all have to get the flu shot in the exact same flu season  (which is really within about 6 months of each other, so just half-a-year by the calendar) due to the flu shot’s short duration. To get 80% of the people having the flu shot in a single flu season would require over 250 million people in the U.S. getting the flu shot during that exact same flu season. Dream on, but that’s just not going to happen. The flu shot manufacturers don’t even make 250 million doses of the flu shot in a single year. So herd immunity in the occasional years where the overall effectiveness is over 60% just doesn’t happen due to the short duration of the flu shot’s effectiveness. Only whenever the “universal flu vaccine” is widely available will herd immunity be realistically possible for the flu.

My personal experience is, outside of people in the medical industry or in the scientifically-oriented crowd, most people do not get the flu shot every year. Just ask about a dozen or so random people if they got the flu shot and I would guess less than half got it this year or even last year.

And the most common views of people who don’t get the flu shot include one or more of the following:

  • they claim that they had a bad reaction to the flu shot in the past
  • they claim that they never get the flu and hence do not need the flu shot (although the reason why they claim this can vary)
  • they claim that the shot has toxins in it (this is where there is some crossover with actual anti-vaxxers, but this claim alone does not necessarily make them anti-vaxxers)
  • they claim that it doesn’t work (citing either its short effectiveness duration or claiming that in the past they once got the flu shot and still caught the flu)
  • they hate getting shots and are afraid of the nasal spray version containing live flu viruses

Of course, some of those are terrible reasons to give but the fact remains that no vaccine is completely safe, so getting any vaccine is always a risks vs. benefits issue. Yes, there can be bad reactions to a shot, but they are rare and seldom are as bad as contracting the virus they are trying to prevent. However, for the flu shot, the risks vs. benefits argument is weaker than for any other vaccine. The risks are annual shots (which means at least 10x as many shots as a different vaccine over the same timespan) that may cause a bad reaction on some years vs. the benefits being a so-so level of protection against a not-so-scary illness that the vast majority of people recover completely from on their own in about 2 or 3 weeks without ever needing to see a doctor.  So the risks are arguably a lot higher and the benefits lower than any other vaccine out there.

Now I have had the flu on a few occasions. One bout of flu back in 1997 was so bad and I felt so miserable for a few days that back then I thought that I might need to go the hospital. But I improved (if you’ve never had the flu, the worst parts only last a few days with the rest of the time being a lot like a bad cold) and when it was over, I decided to get the flu shot from then on. The other times I caught the flu were either early in the season before the shots were available to me or when I procrastinated too long in getting the shot, but only one other time (2009) was the flu as bad as what I had in 1997. If you are wondering how I figured that I had the flu instead of a bad cold, every time I had a high fever with chills and bad aches & pains in addition to the symptoms most common to both, I presumed it was the flu and not a cold (so it’s possible I was mistaken sometimes and just had a bad cold, but I definitely had the flu in 1997 and 2009).

And catching the flu was the only reason that convinced me to start getting the flu shot. If I was one of those people who never get sick with the flu, I probably wouldn’t get the flu shot at all. The only bad reaction I have to the flu shot is my arm is sore and basically useless for the rest of the day, which usually causes me to plan out when to get the shot, but nothing worse than that. However, if I had some of the bad reactions I’ve heard people say they got from the shot, I’m not sure if I would continue getting the flu shot.

A final point to make about anti-flu shot people is when there’s an outbreak of a virus like Measles or Whooping Cough, notice how the outbreak is blamed (correctly) on anti-vaxxers. But when there’s a lot of flu going around, no one is blaming the anti-vaxxers – which is also being done correctly because given how herd immunity is practically impossible with the flu shot, in any realistic scenario, there still would be a lot of flu going around. So call people who are against the flu shot but support other vaccines a name like “anti-flu shotters” but don’t call them anti-vaxxers because there is a clear difference between the two viewpoints.  Anti-flu shotters oppose only the flu shot with arguably good reason, while anti-vaxxers additionally oppose all other vaccines with no good reason.

I think it’s a social and civil duty for everyone to get vaccinated, including making sure to get booster shots for any disease that returns and causes another outbreak. But I do not include the flu shot with that duty and think that getting the flu shot is just a personal choice issue. Get the flu shot if you want or don’t get it – I really don’t care. Now I personally get the flu shot every year because I think some protection against the flu is better than no protection, but I don’t judge anyone who doesn’t get the flu shot. I have this view because my overall point, plain and simple, is that the flu shot sucks… but catching the flu sucks even more.

(P.S. and at this time you can unleash your furious anger in the comment section below)

A Conspiracy Theory Trifecta

Posted in Analysis, Cinema, Conspiracy Theories, Film, Movies with tags , , , , , , on December 14, 2014 by sometimesafoggynotion

As a film buff, I like thoughtful in-depth film critiques so one of my current pastimes is watching movie analysis videos online. There are a lot of good ones on both Vimeo and YouTube, so I recently stumbled across one that seemed like an interesting Stanley Kubrick analysis titled “The Shining Code”.

But then I started watching it and soon realized that it was actually a conspiracy theory put to video. And not just any typical conspiracy theory, but one that is so loopy that it boggles the mind to imagine how anyone could come up with it. This conspiracy theory basically claims that the movie “The Shining” is Stanley Kubrick’s confession that he faked the Apollo Moon landings for NASA.

Wow. Just wow.

This one is so elaborate that it’s like some sort of conspiracy theory trifecta in combining the typical “moon landing was a hoax” conspiracy theory stuff with Stanley Kubrick as a mastermind behind it (I guess because he knew how to make convincing special effects due to making the film “2001: A Space Odyssey”) and then adding in “The Shining” as his coded confession of what he did. That’s a major achievement in beating out other conspiracy theorists in degrees of sheer craziness.

Anyway, if you have some time to waste watching it, the whole thing is found here:

(BTW, I do remember that the excellent documentary “Room 237” about a variety of film analysis of Kubrick’s “The Shining” also briefly mentioned this particular analysis in a segment, although they seemed to do it merely for completeness because the documentary made a few comments to distance themselves from this – and only this – analysis. Definitely see “Room 237” if you ever get the chance – here’s a link to it at NetFlix streaming if you have an account there: http://www.netflix.com/WiMovie/70229061 .)

CSI: Kentucky

Posted in Uncategorized on May 9, 2014 by sometimesafoggynotion

The podcast “Irreligiosophy” did a spoof inspired by the Bill Nye / Ken Ham debate (on 2014-02-05) that’s based on Ken Ham’s ridiculous claim that the only real science is “observational” and anything else (which he labelled “historical”) is not reliable science if “you weren’t there” to see it.  So Irreligiosophy turned this flawed reasoning into a possible police show, linked below:

Direct link to the whole episode: Irreligiosophy 2.24: The Gospel of John

When A Devil’s Chaplain Went Down To Auburn

Posted in Evolution with tags , , , , on February 12, 2014 by sometimesafoggynotion

The South’s reputation as the Bible Belt is unavoidable as well as the anti-scientific views too often common with biblical literalism in the region, particularly in the state of Alabama.  However, there is some real pro-science activity in the state of Alabama and a great instance of that happened back in 1996 when Richard Dawkins visited Auburn University in Alabama as an invited speaker.

Dawkins was invited as a part of the ongoing Franklin Lectures in Science & Humanities series at Auburn University and arrived with a prepared speech that he was planning to give.  But at some point he became aware of the “Alabama Insert” which was a piece of paper put into textbooks in Alabama public schools that basically denounced the scientific theory of evolution.  Once Dawkins became aware of this, he decided to put aside his prepared speech and write a new one addressing the contents of the Alabama Insert.

Dawkins called this speech “The Alabama Insert: A Study in Ignorance and Dishonesty” and the transcript of it is readable at this link: ( http://www.bikerman.co.uk/images/books/Dawkins/articles/The%20Alabama%20Insert%20-%20A%20Study%20in%20Ignorance%20and%20Dish.pdf
)

Each section from the insert is in UPPERCASE and followed by Dawkins addressing each one.  All of the sections from the original insert are the typical attacks on evolution by creationists/ID-ers, so this is a good way to see how Dawkins addresses these still common attacks.

And Dawkins’ “Alabama Insert” speech was later published in the book “Charles Darwin: A Celebration of His Life and Legacy” by James T. Bradley and Jay Lamar of Auburn University ( http://www.amazon.com/Charles-Darwin-Celebration-Life-Legacy-ebook/dp/B00BCO9PH2/ ), which is a compilation of the lectures from the semester-long “Darwin Celebration” that Auburn University had back in 2009 on the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwins’ birthday and 150th anniversary of the publication of “On The Origin Of Species”

I’m proud that my alma mater actually invited Richard Dawkins to speak.  Of course, this was a decade before “The God Delusion” was published and Dawkins’ name was more (in)famous for his views on religion than for his accomplishments as a scientist, so it is now politically impossible for him to ever be invited back to Auburn.  But at least, for one shining moment, this happened.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.