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V12n3.pub

Volume 12, Issue 3
The San Diego Association for Rational Inquiry Newsletter
Summer, 2007
Does Rational Thought years lauded the moderator who
Exclude Faith?
faith, or hypocritical claim of it, is every candidate who claims a bit considered unfair, even if faith is of validity because of his relig- encouragement of One seldom hears the words used as a reason to shape foreign ion. “Mr. Candidate, you cite rational thought in “rational thought” juxtaposed with policy or as an excuse to go to your faith as a reason we should “faith” – except by the religious. I worry for my planet when standing next you does the same affairs. Composed nates America today to the point our best hope for saving it might thing and has quite different that it is the only large institution be an obvious hypocrite. held above criticism, too often even What mem- one of you – indeed all of you – by skeptical groups. Oh sure we are bers give to find a candidate who to provide proof your religion is “allowed” to criticize some of the announced that he took his inspi- based on fact? After all, Ms. results of taking things on faith, but ration from The Age of Reason, or Candidate, we’ve been hearing must not mess with the source it- from On the Origin of Species? self, not even if it prohibits rational But no. In the next year and years, yet not a single prayer has half, about a dozen candidates will been answered that wouldn’t The idea that religion can be vie for the opportunity to replace have been expected through the association strives synonymous with rational thought the most obviously religious presi- law of averages.” ion insists its adherents must take ther Paine nor Darwin will rate a to be asked soon. Not even in
rational discourse things on faith. And virtually all mention. We can’t even begin to many skeptical groups. Religion follow that with the admonition that guess who the candidate or ulti- is almost certain to remain com- they must not test the faith. Show mate winner will be, but you can pletely off-limits for criticism. me a religion that doesn’t require bet your last penny that that candi- One who broaches the sub- faith, not logic, I’ll show you a re- date will use every opportunity to ject will be lambasted from here ligion that I’ll stop railing against. assure the faithful that he or she to kingdom come, metaphori- If rational thought prevailed in reads the Bible faithfully and is cally speaking of course. And this country we surely would not duly inspired by it. Religion is the only dominant be held up to the light of honest Editor Needed! insists that his primary source of force in the country which is never questions more than a claim that

We are looking for a

held accountable. Even the worst one can mumble words to an person who is will-
guishable from any other collection sort of sexual child abuse was unseen being and thereby solve ing to become edi-
of myths. Perhaps we wouldn’t ignored for decades until one dog- problems. tor. The position is
have because the opposing candi- ged Boston lawyer and one dog- presently vacant.
dates, every single one of them, ged Boston Globe reporter per- grouchy old man I tried belly- The newsletter has
made similar claims, and not a one sisted where others danced around aching about it time and again, been published
was challenged outside the secular the complaints that emerged from but few editors would go against quarterly in the past, community—and damned seldom at the mouths of children.
and we would like to that.
maintain this sched-
And it continues. Recently a in God is good. Now help is on Even Al Gore, the guy now group of Democratic presidential the way and it is coming from touted as the most scientifically aspirants met at South Carolina the proper place for things of literate politician of our day, State University. All were anxious this sort, science. proudly told folks he wore a brace- and happy to show the world that let inscribed WWJD, for “What he or she would rely on help from have written books that do not Would Jesus Do?” Nobody ques- Rational Inquiry
Rational Thought
tle of his latest book God is not Great sums it up with How Religion poisons sion) and Sam Harris (The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Rea- 2002, Victor Stenger. We got a preview of son) did what I was worried would never his book God the Failed Hypothesis with happen. They aimed at the heart of relig- his talk “Has Science Found God?” ion and took it on directly, I challenge must join those who stick their necks out for us and ask the questions nobody else science to make the existence of god, as ing why we shouldn’t consider the story we are told to understand him, virtually impossible. Perakh, in Unintelligent De- sign, demolishes the pseudoscientific idea of a universe created by design. But don’t coup de grace. He agitated the “tut tut- Keith Taylor is one of the early members ters” across the world by claiming relig- and currently Secretary and Program ion is not just wrong, it is evil. The subti- Upcoming SDARI Public Lectures
Our Fall program offers intriguing subjects
that there is no “missing link.” She will evolutionary transition from legs to flip- Read any books this Summer?
in my lap last month: Holy Blood, Holy Grail, by Michael Baigent, Richard combination. . . ” So writes our August city’s great historical treasures. Dr. Ash- ley will give us a bit of the local history these children or their descendant moved to the area of southern France. Here they full scale replica of the San Salvador. few of us will survive that long, but Dr. of a secret society named Priory of Sion. sailed into our harbor at the very start of what is considered the scientific revolu- what it is fascinating. Even the rate of book an aura of legitimate research. The large body of serious research that ques- tions the existence of Jesus, at least in so siding in and haunting the ancient Star of far as descriptions in the New Testament ought to be great publicity if we can pull secret operations and conspiracies of the to SDARI about his book Yellow Fe- it off. Dr. Ashley says he can arrange an ver, Black Goddess: The Coevolution and intrigues, conspiracies and cover-ups scientist, this one from San Diego State and dispute the creationists’ arguments Rational Inquiry
Rational Musings Many simple systems are unstable, and or injured. (I realize that to many people,
“government” is a dirty word, but if our by the President
tures of lower energy. “Nothing”, while government isn’t serving and protecting simpler than “something”, is thought to be us as we want it to, that is the fault of the unstable, and without the actions of some people, and the people have the power to outside agent to maintain it, “nothing” change it. Our apathetic management of sional, on why there is something rather will naturally transition into “something”. our government doesn’t change the fact According to one calculation, claims that government is the best solution to Stengler, “something” is more than twice In the front pages of Skeptic Maga- as likely to exist than “nothing”. What an Then there’s the irrational solution to zine, under the title “What is a Skeptic?”, reducing uncertainty, which is best illus- is the statement: “A claim becomes fac- As a skeptic, it’s frustrating trying to trated by alternative medicine. There are understand why people continue to believe diseases that were once fatal, but are now tent it would be reasonable to offer tem- in things that are not true. I hear ads for the healing powers of honey, for example, heard of them. But despite the great pro- ence are provisional and subject to chal- and while I’m skeptical, I can understand gress we have made, there are still fatal how a reasonable person might believe diseases, and although the odds have in- that honey could be useful in treating creased in our favor, modern medicine sions.” This puzzles me, since there are burns or other skin conditions. Then I hear cannot give a 100% guarantee of survival. plenty of facts that seem to be, well, fac- the ads for magnets that you stick to your Alternative medicine, on the other hand, tual, and not at all provisional. Richard Dawkins says that “evolution is as much a fact as the heat of the sun”—is the heat stand how someone desperate to quit writing) a 100% cure with absolute cer- of the sun provisional? No, and neither is smoking might be willing to try anything. tainty. The reason people believe unlikely, the fact of evolution, or the fact that the Then there are things like “The Secret”, or weird, or stupid things, is because the which are just stupid. If we want people to people selling these beliefs guarantee ab- start being more skeptical, we need to solute certainty—you will be cured, you curred to me that no article that I have will find true love, you will lose weight, ever read has ever suggested that falsifi- you will become rich—and people want to cation is provisional—quite the opposite ises, and outright lies. I’ve read several believe in absolute certainty. It’s that sim- articles and a few books on the subject, means that it cannot be true, it becomes a and while some of their speculations are “I know that it is difficult to teach fact that the claim is false, and this fact is interesting, I think the answer is much people but that it is easy to deceive them. not provisional. If falsification was pro- They learn with difficulty, and even when visional, it would be useless. It seems to they do learn something from the few that me that falsification contradicts ago (and for some people still today), peo- know what they are talking about, they are (falsifies?) the claim that all facts in sci- ple’s daily lives were dominated by life- or-death uncertainty. Will I eat today? do not know what they are talking about. there disagrees, I encourage you to write Find water to drink? Be attacked by a And they are deceived not only by others an article for the next newsletter explain- predator? If I become sick or injured, will but even by themselves. For the truth is I die of thirst or hunger before I regain the bitter and unpleasant to people who do not ability to feed myself? Clearly, reducing think, while things that are not true are of Skeptical Briefs and in his latest book, the amount of uncertainty in our lives is sweet and attractive.”—Dio Chrysostom “God: The Failed Hypothesis”, physicist question, “why is there something rather form groups, and agree, as in the classic than nothing?” The answer, according to example, that if one of us falls into quick- convince people raised in a culture that sand, the others will save him. Thus, the sees belief in fairy tales as a virtue, that is that “nothing” is unstable. I don’t uncertainty of surviving a fall into quick- they need to grow up and stop believing in completely understand all of the science, sand is replaced with the certainty of res- fairy tales? We need to keep repeating the but I will try to explain what I think I do Fairy Tales. Life is uncertain, deal with it! uncertainty in our lives is to form groups, stellar heat is not present, water vapor ple who refuse to grow up feel silly and tures. These complex structures are more perience, and resources to create a fair and stable than the simpler structures of wa- effective safety net, and create a reason- ter vapor or liquid water, which require able level of certainty. So no one starves, Rational Inquiry
From the Editor’s Desk that could be harmful to the consumer’s were his motives? To save the HMO the health. This drug is lovastatin, the active ness in assessing the literature regarding Dangerous medications. We have on
prescription drug approved for the treat- this alternative medicine? An attitude of ment of high cholesterol. Lovastatin can general uselessness of “alternative” “medications”. Yet, their uses are flour- merous other drugs that can intensify the ishing. The problem basically is that our tion tests are periodically performed dur- dence) despite its admission “that most ing lovastatin treatment. Obviously, none studies are not well designed and results of this occurs when the Red Yeast rice is not conclusive”. The Safety Disclaimer safety/2007/safety07.htm#redyeast. As regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety seem to have stopped selling this stuff. should always read product labels. If you manufactured by Nature’s Value Inc. and gestion that she try an over-the-counter should speak with a qualified healthcare Kabco Inc., respectively; and Cholestrix, ately if you experience side effects.” So, Video Presentation:
the film clip from "Tomorrow’s World", perception of reality is less accurate than one can walk a 15 foot bed of coals with- out harm. (Don’t try this without proper Flamm, Skeptical Inquirer columnist however, claim that they “reach a state optical illusions, magic tricks, and scien- Environmental Services Department, tific studies. The tricks and illusions he body” that protects them from the heat. So Dr. Wiseman suggested to the show’s producers that they build a bed of coals currently beyond our reach, and are only luck, and the resulting book, “The Luck Factor”. His group studied the lives of lucky and unlucky people, and found, for He illustrated this with some very funny slides and film clips. He concluded “that luck, to a very large extent, was a matter Rational Inquiry
I would like to join the San Diego Association for Rational Inquiry. Enclosed is my annual membership fee of $20 ($12 for students, seniors, and disabled people, $6 if younger than 18). Name:__________________________________________________________________________ Address:________________________________________________________________________ City:_______________________________ State:______ Zip+4:_________________________ Special interests:_________________________________________________________________ Expertise:_______________________________________________________________________ Mail to: San Diego Association for Rational Inquiry For information contact contact Keith Taylor at 619-421-5844, or see our Website at sdari.org Lecture Schedule and
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Meeting Location
ted to Rational Inquiry. Pertinent an- Public lectures are held at 7 p.m. on the fourth Sunday of the month (except De-
Fair prices, and occasionally, to defray cember). The location of all meetings is the Joyce Beers Community Center,
Vermont Street, 2 blocks north of Univer- sity Ave., in the Hillcrest area. (The Cen- ter is near Ralphs and Trader Joe’s mar- kets in Uptown District Shopping Center. work before publication for its suitabil- The parking is free, but please park under- The lectures are free, but a donation of $5 the permission from the copyright own-ers before publication. Such permission must be submitted to the editor in writ-ing. Anonymous material will not be Visit the webpage of SDARI to get the latest infor- mation on lectures and other events sponsored by the Association. You also wil find other interesting facts and links to other organizations with goals Rational Inquiry P. O. Box 623 La Jolla, CA 92038-0623 We are on the Web!
sdari.org
in the Joyce Beers Community Center (See page 5 for
Sunday August 26, 2007.
6 p.m. Pre-meeting social hour.
Program Chair…………………………….….Keith R. Taylor 7 p.m. Lecture: Dr. Christopher Wills. A lot is known about the
paths of evolution in the past, but less so about those in the future. What is the future for mankind? Professor Wills at UCSD will discuss what lies ahead for the evolution of humans. Sunday September 23, 2007.
The San Diego Association for Rational Inquiry (SDARI) is a 6 p.m. Pre-meeting social hour.
non-profit corporation dedicated to the development and 7 p.m. Lecture: Dr. Annalisa Berta. Many of evolution’s
preservation of rational thought through application of the “missing” links are not really missing. Professor Berta at SDSU scientific method and critical thinking. Opinions expressed in the will present some examples of gradual transitions among species. Newsletter of the San Diego Association for Rational Inquiry, Rational Inquiry, are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent the views of either the Association, its Sunday October 28, 2007.
officers, or the newsletter staff. Articles not specifically 6 p.m. Pre-meeting social hour.
copyrighted by the authors may be reprinted without further 7 p.m. Lecture: Dr. Ray Ashley. Professor Ashley at USD will
permission provided Rational Inquiry is credited as the source and tell us how Cabrillo and other explorers influenced the scientific a reprint is sent to the San Diego Association for Rational Inquiry. Contents and logo 1996 by the San Diego Association for

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