Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"Skeptics Are Third-Graders"

I get tired of reading that "skeptics only attack their third grade notions of God and Judaism. They think it's all as they were taught back then, or it's nothing."

Rubbish. When I was still 'dox, I was a rationalist. I argued for the Rambam's position of treating outrageous stories in Tanach as allegories. I argued for the Maharal's style of decoding outrageous statements of Chazal as hidden, coded, allegorical wisdoms. I went through "the Torah is not a science textbook," followed by "the Torah is not a history textbook," and so on. I did everything you could expect from a Modern Orthodox intellectual trying to make Orthodox Judaism rational and understandable.

I reject that. Don't tell me Breishit is metaphorical: tell me what the metaphor stands for, and why I should accept that as true. Tell me why I should believe in any supernatural claims whatsoever, including dualism. Tell me why I should believe any form of Divine revelation occurred--not just the sort they teach you in third grade. Tell me why I should accord any intellectual authority to Chazal, not just simple belief or disbelief in their sayings.

And so on.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Vaccine Scare Doctor Exposed as Fraud

Andrew Wakefield, the shamed doctor behind the discredited vaccine scares, is at last being shown to be a complete fraud. His paper claiming a link between MMR vaccines and autism was already retracted for sloppy methods and undisclosed conflict of interest; his license to practice medicine was already revoked for ethical breaches; his results, which examined exactly 12 children, have not only never been replicated, but have been disconfirmed repeatedly. At last, though, new investigations have shown that his study apparently actually faked data:

A new examination found, by comparing the reported diagnoses in the paper to hospital records, that Wakefield and colleagues altered facts about patients in their study.
The analysis, by British journalist Brian Deer, found that despite the claim in Wakefield's paper that the 12 children studied were normal until they had the MMR shot, five had previously documented developmental problems. Deer also found that all the cases were somehow misrepresented when he compared data from medical records and the children's parents.

Deer previously found motives as well: two years before the study, Wakefield was hired to discredit MMR vaccines by a lawyer who hoped to create a class action lawsuit against drug companies. Wakefield was paid an undisclosed $750,000 over time to do so. In addition, Wakefield filed a patent for his own version of a vaccine many months before his study, through which he stood to gain if the other MMR vaccines were attacked. (A brief summary with details can be found here.)

Infants have died because of this man. Measles is on the rise and children are sick because he took advantage of the worst fears of parents to get rich. He should rot in prison.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Arguments from Personal Incredulity

Atomic Theory:
This theory actually claims that everything is made of the same subatomic particles in different arrangements. That's crazy! Try touching wood and then water. They are totally different! How could they possibly be made of the same subatomic particles? Obviously, each material on Earth has its own essence, made according to its kind.

Computer Science:
You're telling me that little gates opening and closing create Microsoft Word and me watching DVDs? That's ridiculous. How could one lead to the other? Obviously there's a typewriter and movie theater inside my computer.

DNA Theory:
You're saying the plan for our bodies is "coded" inside each cell? That's ridiculous! Who's there to read the code? Besides, different cells do different things--how would they know what to do if they all have the same instructions? Obviously, Someone tells each cell what to do.

What? Read a book? Why? Can't you just give me straight answers to these simple questions? Or would these theories only be believed by atheist scientists who don't want to accept the truth? Hmmmm?