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January – Electric Chair

Many of us get into the ‘New Year’s Resolution’ thing, and for some it’s either flippant stuff (resolving to drink a little more or spend more time sleeping in), or well-meaning things that are quickly forgotten in everyday life. But there was one this year that I have actually stuck to (at least on the one occasion that it has come up since the new year), and I think it’s something we should all resolve to do.

If you haven’t gotten involved in an internet fight over evolution/creationism, you are probably in the small minority of those who defend science at every turn. And if you’re like most who have done battle, you probably grew weary of the fight long ago but continue to slag it out with those who simply will not be educated. The frustration grows as you see the same tired old points raised again and again, and your answers are also the same. It’s like a broken record, if you’ll excuse an old guy for an old analogy.

Last week I did something different. After giving me the same hoary old lines about ‘atheists not really being atheists, atheism just being another religion, and more and more scientists are ditching Darwin, blah blah blah,’ this man finally cut to the chase and said that he could scientifically prove creationism. Okay, says I, give it to me.

Predictably the second law of thermodynamics was raised, at which point I could see exactly where this was heading. “Stop right there.” I replied. “How does this prove creationism?”

“Well, it shows how the universe and evolution can’t be true!”

“So?” I asked, “how does this prove creationism?”

“Well, let me tell you about….” From there a few more questions were posed dealing with various alleged evolutionary problems, and to each I responded the same way — asking how it proves creationism. I finally asked my unlearned opponent if he was familiar with the logical fallacy known as the false dichotomy (also known as the false dilemma) — assuming that there are only two possible sides to an issue, and if you can destroy someone else’s philosophy or idea it somehow enhances your own. He wasn’t familiar and, just as with the evidence in favour of evolution, he wasn’t willing to learn more about that either. Conversation over.

As science buffs you’re sharp enough to see what I mean now. When next you come up against someone trying to push an alternative to evolution, do not allow them to use this tactic! Pester them to present only evidence in favour of creationism, intelligent design, or whatever their idea may be, and do not allow them to stray from it; give them no leeway whatsoever. You may find that many creationists are very familiar with how to attack evolution, but since that’s usually all they know how to do, they will have a very difficult time presenting any evidence for their philosophy. Your next experience may not end as quickly as mine did, but it will probably end much sooner than if you let them frame the terms of the debate. And when you see fellow evolution promoters falling into the trap, either buttonhole them and tell them not to go that route, or step in and take the discussion in the direction it should properly go. Resolve to do it right

“Sent by Heaven,” born on “the holy mountain of the revolution,” on his death “a mysterious glow was seen on a revered mountain top.” These are all statements from North Korea regarding the birth and death of late dictator Kim Jong Il. Sound a little religious coming from an officially atheistic country? Don’t kid yourself. As we have seen before in dictatorships, left- or right-wing, a cult of personality is often created, complete with the supernatural, and the religion of stateism arises — a slavish devotion that rivals fundamentalist theistic religions and equally stifles free thought. It is something that we must continue to watch for, and warn about.

Now, on a rather personal note: you may remember that last year I brought up the idea of challenging local alternative medicine practitioners to cure something using their ‘system(s)’. I believe we have found a volunteer — me. I have been diagnosed with a heart condition known as a Left Bundle Branch Block. It is a neurological problem in which the heart ventricles are not firing in the correct sequence, resulting in improper blood flow, which gives me occasional dizziness when under physical exertion. It is easily seen on an electrocardiogram, and any improvement should also be similarly visible.

Now we need volunteers to help arrange the test. I’ve done my part (unwillingly I assure you!), so let’s see if we can get anyone to take up the challenge.

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