Afternoon Inquisition, 11.21

Happy Friday everyone!  Today’s inquisition is about skeptical and scientific pet peeves.  The other day, I was reading my copy of Glamour magazine (shut up, I have to have a *few* girly guilty pleasures) and I saw an article where they asked men what their ultimate sexual fantasy would be.  No, before you start, that’s not today’s question :)  One of the guys responded that he’d love to have sex on the moon because he thought it would be so cool to do it in a weightless environment.

Sigh.  At this point, my head exploded and I ended up screaming “THE MOON HAS GRAVITY, DUMBASS,” and trying to rip apart the magazine. But we won’t get into all that or the unfortunate perfume sample incident that followed.  On to today’s question:

What ‘common misconception’ about science or skepticism do you hear that just sets you off?  How do you respond, if at all?


Maria D'Souza grew up in different countries around the world, including Hong Kong, Trinidad, and Kenya and it shows. She currently lives in the Bay Area and has an unhealthy affection for science fiction, Neil Gaiman and all things Muppet.

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  1. “You don’t really KNOW that, it’s just your opinion.”
    Kind of vague, but that’s a typical response from creationists, homeopaths, and new-agers mangling physics. I could go into a rigorous defense of empiricism, but I’d rather just say ‘yes, I can. now shut up.’

  2. the one that gets me the most is the difficulty people (even smart people) seem to have understanding that ARCHAEOLOGISTS DO NOT DIG UP DINOSAUR BONES!!!! GAH!!!!

    that would be your paleontologists. i’m sure it pisses them off that the archaeologists are getting credit for their work.
    archaeologists study cultural remains and human bones. i hope to be one some day. (hey, i’m currently on pace to complete my b.a. in just under 13 years :D)

    anyway, thanks for the opportunity to get that off my chest, maria. cuz it srsly makes my head want to go all asplodey.

  3. It’s a toss-up between the misconception tha humans came from monkeys and the baseless assumption that our universe is the only one that exists/can exist/ever has existed/ever will exist and something within our observational capacity (i.e. something within our universe) had to start it.

    I usually respond by banging my head against a wall until either the wall or my head gives way to the other.

  4. @carr2d2: That one always gets me. I find it equally bothersome when people refer to archeologists as “paleontologists.” My relatives always confuse them because it’s fun to pretend that I didn’t know what those two words meant when I was a kid who told everyone she wanted to be an archeologist someday. At least my mom remembers clearly, or I might believe them.

  5. Oh, I remember now!

    It’s when my relatives go off on GMO foods and say things like, “The scientists don’t know! We’re all just subjects in a big experiment!” Guh! It’s not a very good experiment, then, is it?!

  6. It drives me crazy when people tell me that “science is just a human construct like any other belief system.” I hear that one from coworkers all the time.

  7. Where I live it’s very common to hear people say “I don’t want to be a monkey’s grandson”. So that’s one of my big pet peeves. The notion that what we want has anything to do with the way things are.

  8. Anti-vaccination. When it involves your kid’s health, you have to take the time to learn and understand the scientific facts. But there is absolutely no way to effectively argue with a parent who is convinced vaccines are nothing but the weapon of big pharma, the government, and/or the devil.

  9. Mind over matter, don’t you know it’s just something science cant measure…, and I’m convinced of it. I walked on the hot coals and I didn’t get burned!!!

    Walk to corner, bang head on wall, never bring up topic with my sister again.

  10. @marilove: Bingo. “It’s only a theory” gets so incredibly tiresome. I got into it with someone on StumbleUpon a while back. He posted a review of the brilliant The Onion story about evolutionists flocking to a water stain that looked like Darwin, where he seemed to take the story seriously and commented about how even the dumb evolutionists act the same way as the religious they make fun of.

    I wrote back explaining how this was clearly parody, as is everything on this site, and was meant to be an ironic poke at the fact that atheists and so-called evolutionists would never act in this irrational manner.

    He wrote back something about how he knew this, but was trying to point out the humor himself (yeah, right), and then went on about how he meant it for everyone else, but clearly smart people like myself obviously recognize that evolution’s only a theory, but these stupid people seem to actually believe it’s fact. Then he launched into something about it simply being differences of opinion, and how one of us can see a haunted house and call it ghosts, while he would call it demons, but that doesn’t mean we’re not both right.

    At that point I let him have it (very respectfully), launching into explanations of the term “theory” as opposed to hypothesis, and the different uses in science. I launched into evolution being pretty much the best-proven element of biology there is, and how vital it’s been to modern medicine and other innovations. I then pointed out how contrary to his suggestion, I wouldn’t see a haunted house and say “ghosts,” I’d say drafts, creaking wood, shadows, creepy vibe, etc.

    My entire response was, in my opinion, well-crafted, detailed, and addressed every bit of his lunacy without being too insulting. Which was why it was so sad to receive the most anti-climactic, cop-out response we hear so often from true believers (which you can picture them saying through pursed lips):

    “Let’s just agree to disagree.”


  11. OMG – I have 3
    1) that dead bodies cause disease. FFS people. Read a public health manual. Or this

    2) that HIV might not be the cause of AIDS. Grrrrr.
    3. That abstinence only education works to lower rates of unintended pregnancies and STIs.

  12. I think a lot of people look at Science as an entity instead of a way of looking at things, and I think that creates a lot of misconceptions.

  13. @Mully410 LOLOLOL

    The most annoying thing is that people have no problem accepting the fruits of Evolutionary Biology but will still reject the ‘Theory’ of Evolution when it comes to the idea that we came from another form of life they get all bent out of shape.

  14. Oh, which reminds me of the other one: The idea that someone can pick and choose what to believe. The idea that it’s perfectly reasonable to present children with a scientific view (evolution) and a religious view (creation) and let them CHOOSE which one they want to believe is an insult. We don’t get to choose the reality around us. It is or it isn’t.

  15. @Cola: But what if us knowing about the experiment is part of the experiment! Aaaaah!!!

    Anyway, the only recent thing I can think of is how this guy I knew insisted that a rocket can’t function in space because there is nothing for it’s exhaust to push against. And that was frustrating at the time because I didn’t immediately know the answer.

  16. I hate it when someone says that science is a kind of faith, because I have to have faith that scientists know what they’re talking about.

    No, it isn’t faith. I can logically infer that scientists know what they’re talking about, and if I put my mind to it, I could reproduce the research, or simply examine it. No faith is required.

    That’s one of the most frustrating points I ever hear, because it totally dismisses all the work and achievements that people have devoted their lives to as something almost mystical.


  17. The biggest one for me is the misconception that science is just a body of facts that “the scientists” have agreed on. Or, really, any other misconception about the very nature of science. In my opinion, not understanding what science is sets the stage for all the other misconceptions that follow.

  18. @Mully410: Similar to that, my jaw tightens every time I hear a TV weather presenter say “with wind chill, the temperature’s minus 35”. Um, no, that’s not temperature.

  19. @TurboFool: True, but the idea that people actively think that believing something is just as good as it being true, or possibly MORE IMPORTANT than it being true is disgusting to me. How insecure or self-absorbed do you need to be to not only prefer what’s in your head to reality, but to want to force that falsehood upon others (especially defenseless children)?

  20. Anything “natural” must be better for your body. I always point out that arsenic and hemlock are natural, too. Drink up!

    This is followed closely by “anything that bolsters your immune system must be good for you.” (As if any of the products that claim to do this actually did, but that’s another peeve.) I’ve had people with auto-immune diseases say this to me before. Me, “So you’re trying to make your rheumatism worse?”

  21. Folk don’t want a plumber doing the electrical work for their house because they know the plumber is not likely to know how to do a safe and competent job. So why folk think they can trust woo stuffed idiots and non science based types to provide accurate and effective medical treatment or information is beyond me.

  22. That people’s personal anecdotes are enough to defeat my scientific arguments. “Well, my sister studies homeopathy and she’s not stupid. So homeopathy must work.” So I guess the issue is: People’s misconception that science is less robust than their own personal experience or opinions and when we point out that it is actually quite valid we’re being “elitist”.

  23. “We only use 10% of our brain, and if we could just unlock the other 90% image what we could accomplish.”

    I have stopped watching so many TV shows and movies because they start with this premise.

  24. I love the arguing strategy, “Well that is your opinion, I choose to believe that magical fairies carry my feces to the land of lollipops for disposal.”

  25. @Jen: Anti-vaccine arguments make me cringe now. A close friend was (is?) very anti-vaccine for the specific reason that she didn’t want her child to be autistic.

    Her child was just diagnosed with autism.

  26. @Imrryr: The reason it’s not a good experiment is that there’s no control, too many variables, and no blindness. That just never occurs to my family though. They think scientists are all these overly curious sociopaths cackling under fluorescent lights in their white coats over the perfect tomato.

    Of course my biggest pet peeve where misconceptions of science are concerned is when people refer to “science” with no qualification. “Science says this. Science says that. Science does this.” What is this “science” that seems to have a life all its own? How dare science!

    My reaction when I hear the word used that way is to throw my hands up in the air and say, “SCIENCE” in a deep voice. I’ve got my boyfriend doing it now, too.

  27. When my wife and I were getting married my uncle offered to give us personalized astrogical readings to make sure that we were compatible in the eyes of the cosmos. I politely declined sighting my skepticism in astrology (not to mention that I was insulted that the cosmos had to be consulted to make sure we were compatible). He was pretty angry and hurt by this and told me that I “need to be more open minded.” Kills me. I wanted to tell him being open minded means listening to the criticisms of an idea, not just the proponent’s point of few. But he was trying to something nice for us and I did kind of throw it in his face. So I just politely give up my time and place of birth.

  28. Like most of you here, “it’s just a theory” and “science is faith.”

    Anytime astrology and astronomy are mixed up. Or anytime astrology is given credence.

  29. @Imrryr:
    That’s actually a really interesting example. The fuel leaving the back of the ship pushes against the ship and propels it as it leaves. The same idea can be brought down to a smaller scale example. If you were to take a gun and shoot it in a vacuum then if your friend was correct, there would be no kick-back as the bullet left the gun (the bullet leaving the gun is comparable to the exhaust leaving the ship). This experiment has been done under laboratory conditions (and can be repeated for your friend with a bit of setup)…OR he could look up at the hundreds of satellites in the atmosphere which all use rocket propulsion to stay in orbit and get in orbit to begin with as evidence.

  30. One day Cell phone manner and then scientific fallacies the next. Careful my head may explode.

    “We only use 10% of our brains”. Or equally foolish “the right half of our brains can’t talk to the left half”

    For stuff like that I usually try to explain that it’s a common misperception in a way that makes it sound interesting.

    “Oh you have a cold, you need some Echinacea (or st.Johns wort or something else equally benign), it really helps!” or “that’s aluminum, I’ll give you Alzheimer’s”

    For those I usually say something to the effect of “I only take medicines that are proven to have a benefit” or “that actually was proven to not be true”.

    But my back get up any time I hear the phrase “it’s commonly known…” as if that equals “it’s actually true”. And that one bothers me even when they are saying some thing correct because they are simply correct by chance.

    I try very hard to be patient, rarely if ever is their error any fault of their own. These people are simply stating the facts as they’ve been told to them by countless authority figures. I still catch myself about to repeat some “fact” that I simply heard as if I can actually back it up.

  31. @Kimbo Jones: The power of anecdotes. I believe this is how the anti-vaccine movement started in the U.K. and is perpetuated in the media. That is, they spend 8 minutes of a 10-minute piece giving you the poor grieving mother whose child seemingly contracted autism right after getting a vaccination, then 3 minutes from a scientist indicating that no studies back up any causal connection (much less a correlation), and then the last minute with the “reporter” summarizing the “debate” as if both sides have evidence of equal weight and then raising her eyebrow and asking, “Can it just be a coincidence?”

  32. @PrimevilKneivel: “I still catch myself about to repeat some “fact” that I simply heard as if I can actually back it up.”

    This drives me crazy, but we’re all guilty of it. Nothing hurts more than when I present something I’m sure of only to learn I failed to apply the skepticism I hold so dear. It really stings to find my own errors like that. But I’m working harder these days to take more joy in being corrected. Considering it’s the very nature of our philosophy to learn the truth at every turn, being corrected and gaining further knowledge should be a privilege and I’m going to start accepting it that way.

  33. I work in the radiation safety field and there are so many radiation based misconceptions that just blow my mind. Probably the three biggest pet peeves are a) It’s ok because that’s good radiation, and nuclear waste is the bad kind. there is no “good” or “bad” kind of radiation, it’s just the type of particle and how it contributes to dose. but medical isn’t good radiation, it’s just as damaging. you’re living in a sea of radiation anyway, but no one’s afraid to get on an airplane because of the radiation dose….
    b) I don’t want a nuclear power plant nearby because i’m afraid of the radiation… actually a coal power plant puts out more radiation dose to the public than a nuclear one… but we’ll just leave it at that.
    c) I don’t want that in situ uranium mine because mining scars the landscape and when they leave the water won’t be drinkable in that area. in situ mines are the most boring places on earth, no pits, no giant holes, just small holes with pvc pipe sticking out of htem and a couple metal shacks to collect it in, and i don’t see these people not wearing jewlery or using metals because mining metal (which involves large holes and extremely harsh chemicals) scars the landscape. Also, yes the water won’t be drinkable when they leave because it was NEVER SAFE TO DRINK IN THE FIRST PLACE. the epa won’t approve a site for uranium mining if the water table there contains drinkable water, it’s unsafe because, imagine this, there’s URANIUM IN IT(and there ALWAYS has been)

  34. For me, the most frustrating thing is a fundamental misunderstanding of the placebo effect. (For example, “Well, she felt better right after she took the St. John’s Wort, so it must be effect. Like, duh!”)

  35. “It’s just a theory.”

    I just beat a creationist to death during lunch when he said that. Some things can’t be allowed to pass.

  36. @Protesilaus: Seriously, you have no idea how many times at school I have brought something up in a lab discussion that I read in a science book or journal that is general scientific consensus to dispute a point from someone else (for example, acupuncture = bullshit, in more sciency words) only to be met with “that’s just your opinion” as if I’m being some snotty know-it-all. And this is in grad school, mind you. For a health science! Very frustrating. I’m sorry, but I don’t have to “respect an opinion” that’s demonstrably wrong.

  37. I recommended some people on some message board read Michael Shermer’s Why People Believe Weird Things and some idiot replies with “I’m sure it’s interesting and all but I know he’s just going to be telling us how life is meaningless”. I don’t mean to sound angry or intolerant or anything but…what the fuck is wrong with these idiots?

  38. “Well doctors use treatments all the time and they don’t really know why they work”. I hear this as an excuse to believe is some kind of quackery or complamentary/alternative medicine. The difference being that there are a few treatments where the exact mechanisms within the body is not fully understood but it is known and repeatedly proven that it DOES work. Whereas there is no proof that quack cures or CAM work at all.

  39. “its only a theory”

    “scientists don’t know the answer, so they don’t know anything!”

    “it takes just as much faith to be an atheist as it does to believe in god”


    “it takes more faith to be an atheist than to believe in a god”

    “the proof of god is all around you!”

    “what does a skeptic society do? just sit around and talk about what they don’t believe in?”

    “you’re a skeptic? why are you so cynical?”

    “my grandmother could speak to the dead/saw a ghost/believed in psychics/told me blahbladdiddiblah”

    “i think stuff that’s natural is just healthier, ya know? and its good for the environment”


  40. @Kimbo Jones: I had that argument with a homeopath on the train on Wednesday. She, in turn, accused me of belonging to an international consipracy involving powerful government agencies, big pharma and the academic world.

    I dearly wanted to threaten her with being ‘liquidated’, but I didn’t

  41. Astrology, psychic nonsense, and pretty much what everybody else here has said.

    But what really makes me lose it is when a woo type is losing the argument and says “Well, science doesn’t know everything!!”. I just say “Of course not”. Then I point out some things that medicine can and can’t handle, and how there’s not a theory of gravitational mechanics the way there is for the electromagnetic force (something they can usually understand), and that science has always been and will always be a “work in progress”. I can’t help asking if they can actually see the world we live in. Yes, I know I shouldn’t do that, but eventually somebody just gets me at a bad time and I go thermal.

  42. Slightly off-topic, but…

    I’ve gotten less likely to go mental since regularly engaging with other skeptics on the Internets. Before I had this outlet, I used to get so bothered by astrology and psychic believers and (OMG so especially) creationists. I would instantly start to foam at the mouth, tear off my clothes and go running into the street, screaming obscenities until my throat started to bleed. I spent many a cold night huddled naked and exhausted in an alley, too tired and disoriented to find my pants, let alone drive home.

    I think, though, that my frustration was compounded by two things. 1) feeling sometimes like I was the only rational being on this god (un)forsaken planet, and 2) knowing I was right, but not always having a solid rebuttal to every point.

    Batting these subjects around with y’all (and the occasional overmatched troll) has helped with both of these things. I have a lot more information at my disposal, I’ve learned the best ways to counter most of the arguments, and I have a place to vent when I ground my canoe of knowledge on a gigantic sandbar of stupid.

    My reduced blood pressure thanks you all.

  43. My pet peeves are;

    1) Those people who think that Correlation SOMETIMES equals Causation. Especially if they have no mathmatical/statistical background, as you can’t prove Correlation does not equal Causation without “college maths”.

    2) Anacdotes as evidence. Also maths/stats issue. You can’t prove anacdotes are meaningless without a certain amount of maths.

    3) Personal opinions being as valid as scientific research.

    4) The ScienceBigPharmaAcademicGovernment Conspiracy. Which is especially annoying as ~90% of labs are run on a shoestring, most academics spend half their time asking for money and the government lost >1000 laptop computers last year. It’s because most people’s image of “SCIENCE” is based on comic books and TV programmes

  44. @Oskar Kennedy (LBB): I’ve felt similarly. I’ve learned so much and also learned what arguments are more efficient and which ones aren’t worth it at all.

    One thing I’ve started to try to pick up on sooner is whether the person I’m arguing with is simply an idiot. I know that sounds awful, but it’s so important to saving everyone’s time. So often I’ve assumed when the person makes some argument that I can counter that it’s because they genuinely believe what they’re saying. Then I counter it and we start a whole back-and-forth and as we’re going their argument gets progressively dumber and dumber until it devolves into the aforementioned “let’s just agree to disagree” or something similar that proves they have no interest in learning, didn’t know what they were talking about to begin with, or they even repeat something I thought people only said in jokes on the Internet. And all that time I was assuming I was having a genuinely intelligent argument with a rational human being.

    So now I’m working to piece together some qualifying statements or questions, and if they answer them just right, I know to smile, thank them for their time, and run.

  45. @Oskar Kennedy (LBB) I’m pretty much in the same boat. I’ve only recently found the various skeptic’s blogs. Something I need to do is relax a bit and post a bit more.

    Thanks to you all for being here!!

  46. My favorite is,

    Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.

    Or, it’s different for women, or women aren’t like men or something of that vein.

    I have an answer for that, when it comes up.

    I say:

    “Is that why my last 5 girl friends thought my porn collection was dull and offered to help me upgrade my library? Just wondering.”

    They hate that,


  47. @TurboFool Yes, I think that’s the way to go. It does feel like a terrible thing to say that some people are idiots, but that’s what they are and that is how it is. Not all of them have low IQ’s. Some people seem to want to be given the answers to “Life, The Universe, and All Things” gratis, and not have to think about it. Some don’t seem to care that their brain has been hijacked by charlatans, and pointing it out to them just makes them upset. It’s probably best to leave them to their own thoughts and leave.

  48. @Oskar Kennedy (LBB): Oh man… I also recently discovered the SGU and the whole skeptical movement. Except for a few friends, I, too, felt adrift in a sea of madness. Thank FSM there are people like you all on the internet.

    @Rodney: Hey now, that’s a feminist gripe! ;p

    As a feminist who draws porn, I sympathise.

  49. The common misconception that because you spent 5 minutes thinking about some metaphysical bullshit you deserve to be taken just as seriously as scientists who have been working on the problem in the real world for decades, even though your metaphysical BS contradicts nearly every part of reality that it aproaches.

    Examples include unified “theories of everything” in physics that don’t include any measurements, make no predictions, and explain nothing, and are barely understandable gibberish, and people deciding that memories are stored in DNA and that this explains “past memory” or inherited memory.

  50. Kind of of topic, but not exactly, that because I am an atheist, I don’t give a shit about anybody. Just yesterday, a friend of mine had “Needs prayer” up on her facebook, so I said “Hey what’s the matter?”

    “Why do you care, aren’t you an atheist?

    Cuz, you’re my friend and I love you, stupid.

  51. @Protesilaus: In the case of my friend I doubt he really believed that rockets didn’t work in space, it just didn’t make sense to him how they could function in that environment. I eventually found the solution on an “ask a rocket scientist” type of website, although I forget what the scientist used as an example in his/her explanation. To be honest, it was fun finding out the answers to my friend’s many science related questions, but it was also frustrating at the time because I didn’t have instant access to the internet. I had to walk to the school’s computer lab every time one of his questions stumped me.

    @Cola: I can sympathize. I know not to mention anything science related to anyone on my mother’s side of the family. Biting my tongue every time I see them is pretty difficult though, especially when something like the Expelled documentary comes up in conversation.

  52. Oops!

    I meant “Life, The Universe, and Everything”. I bought the first four books in the trilogy (an improbable event?) when they came out.

    I blew it due to Happy Hour ($2.50 for an Eyeball, and a buck and a half for an Ear – they couldn’t make a Buzzed Aldren). Charger and Loki wanted to hang out with me, and I had Rocket Scientists CRANKED.

    Ah, well.

  53. As a physician, it’s the anti-vaccine propagandists. Dangerous, dangerous people, especially Jenny McCarthy and Oprah.

    Secondly, it’s anti-evolutionists in all forms and any group that undermine science , not because they are naive ( we all are naive about something ), but because they have a hidden, or not so hidden, “evil” agenda.

    And a question … to all of you … not that any of you will answer … because my question is … WHY AM I ALWAYS THE LAST TO THE QUESTIONS? Don’t you people have jobs? :) How do you answer these things so rapidly?

  54. @halincoh: RSS feeds in Google Reader. :) And I have a Google Reader Notifier extension in Firefox. Every time one of my RSS feeds is updated, the number of unread items goes up in my status bar. Whenever I have a few minutes of downtime I click it and read through the new posts on all my feeds. Then I find an interesting topic such as this one and completely ignore my job for 10 or 15 minutes at a time. :)

  55. @halincoh Umm… I don’t know the total answer to your question, but my local IT /accounting position precludes posting before the day is done, and it can be a long day. Some seem to be in a place where they can – lawyers, college students, academia . A bunch also have blogs, post back and forth, hoping to increase their own internet traffic.

    My brother and sister-in-law are veterinarians (M.D.’s), have an animal hospital to run , and have no time for anything like this.

    Thanks for showing up.

  56. Nostra-fucking-damus.

    The mere mention of his name is enough to send me into fits of uncontrolable profanity.

    That anyone could interpret his awful poetry as “prophetic” is far beyond the human propensity for believing in abject bullshit.

    I mean, I could writer better bad quatrains than him.

    “In the City of Light, on the cusp of May
    The Sentinel will wail and brood
    For, upon approaching the Lady in the Day
    He will find, in the Night, a Dude.”

    So, if you go to Vegas and take a transvestite back to your room, tell everyone that Oakes called it.

  57. “Everything happens for a reason” – Can anyone even explain that to me?”

    “Things happen in threes” – Some people actually believe this!

    “Astrology” – The dumbest of all; not only is there no plausible reason why stars would affect personalities -but let’s assume they do, then was there a 100 year study following people with the same b-days to note similarities? No! It’s all arbitrary i.e. bullshit! fuck I hate astrology

  58. That skeptics are closed-minded wins hands down for me.

    Then people believing in jinxes and superstitions.

    Oh! And when Christians cry persecution!

    Actually this entire thread has reminded me of many reasons to hold most humans in contempt.

    I think I’ll go back and look at the Roomba-riding cat again ….

  59. @Oakes: John Hogue is so much worse. :) He’s still alive and peddling this crap.

    @Briarking: How could I have forgotten the closed-minded thing? That is a big one for me as well. So frustrating to be the one that would change your mind with evidence being told by an unflinching believer that you’re “closed-minded”. Or if you do change your mind, that somehow weakens everything you have to say.

    Worse AI ever! :P Just reminding me of all the things that piss me off. Although it is comforting to know there are some rational minds out there.

  60. @mikekoz68: “Everything happens for a reason” – Can anyone even explain that to me?”

    Silly, whatever it is, it’s part of God’s design and he wouldn’t just do random shit without a good reason.

  61. @Oakes: I disagree with your interpretation of the quantrain you just wrote. It clearly is refering to Obama as the Anti-Christ. He was born in a city with lights, “sentinel” is a Nostrodamian-anagram for senator, lady in the day is obviously a reference to a wife (Obama is married), Dude is young-late-English slang for the devil that I just made up.

  62. @carr2d2:
    hey, i’m currently on pace to complete my b.a. in just under 13 years :D

    Don’t knock it. The 5 years I spent as a senior made me the man I am today! :D

  63. It seems silly in the light of what others have said here but the thing that I personally can never restrain myself from correcting is “Dinosaurs are extinct”.

    No, they are not. Birds are Dinosaurs.

    Close on the heels of the first one is the whole idea that nonavian-dinosaurs died out because the were stupid and inferior. Inferior? They, as a group, survived two mass-extinctions and dominated the world for ~130MY despite appearing slightly later than mammals. Inferior, my ass!

  64. Another one based on the “everything happens for a reason” argument is the fact that people will credit God for every minute, tedious detail and claim that it’s all part of his big plan to the point of completely discrediting their own efforts and skills as well of those around them.

    And YET, these are many of the same people who, after Obama was elected, had the gall to claim that God must be extremely angry right now.

    So let me follow the logic: God was looking out for you when you managed to avoid stubbing your toe, he was there for you when you swerved around that cat in the road, he’s the reason why you lost your job because now you have more time to spend with your kids, he’s the reason you placed second in your local talent competition, he made that butterfly fly by while you were in a bad mood, you feel like your life sucks right now but it’s okay because God will take care of you, you can’t pay your bills this month but it’s okay to keep wasting money on cigarettes because God has a plan, etc.

    So God can juggle all these details of your life, and the lives of billions of other human beings, but he can’t fix an election that was voted on by over a hundred million of you little people who he seems to control every detail of? Heck, the Republicans even know how to do that!

  65. Thanks for the feedback Turbo and Knurl.

    And Turbo reminds me of my alllllllllll time twitching point – as a huge sports geek, I hate, absolutely HATE when anyone thanks God for looking after his team after a win. I actually have no problem with something like “God given talent,” because I simply substitute the word “potential” and that palliates me. But thanking God for helping his team win? Arghhhhhhh. To paraphrase the great Tom Waits in his song Day After Tomorrow, ” How does God choose? Whose prayers does he refuse? ” Einstein may have once said, in reference to quantum physics, God does not play dice with the universe, and there has been a little bit of debate regarding that statement since then, but I’m pretty damn sure Einstein didn’t say that God will exclaim , “shit!” or “yee-haw” if Pittsburgh doesn’t cover the point spread.

  66. ‘Science is always changing. Science admits it was wrong, but the bible’s been the same for x thousand years. And it’s never wrong. When it looks like it’s wrong it’s because you don’t understand.’

  67. @Rodney:

    And I hate it when people insist that men and women are exactly the same. Wouldn’t that be boring?! Equal yes; identical no.

    E.g.: men look silly naked, women do not. (Though some people might disagree on that point…)

  68. @halincoh:
    Indeed, have you ever seen a sportsperson, or Oscar nominee, stand up and say “I credit my loss to God. It wasn’t my fault, and if the game was fair I would have won easily.” Perhaps prayer should be banned as performance enhancing? XD

  69. That “skeptic” is a dirty word that means the same thing as “cynical.”

    I had a fundie once tell me that it was “terrible and so sad that I was so skeptical and why couldn’t I just believe”…as if I could turn my belief on and off like it was a switch or something…as if requesting some proof to back up from someone pushing an allegedly “life-changing” belief on me was a bad thing to request.

    As far as people publically thanking God for their survival or win or whatever…Every time I hear that, I think of a couple of lines in the old Star Trek series:

    Scotty: “Thank God, you’re alive, Captain!”
    Spock: “No deity was involved, Mr. Scott. It was my cross-circuiting from A to B that brought him back.” :-D Surprised THAT line got past the 1960’s censors!

    Christians crying persecution in the US is plainly ludicrous. When Christians are being thrown to the lions again as they were in the Roman Empire, they can cry persecution. Not until then. (Remind them that the Gospels have some pointed comments to complaining believers about “not having been tested to the point of shedding blood.” That always shuts them up in my experience. Remember: They never expect an atheist to have read the Bible.)

    @carrd2d: It took me only 30 to complete my BS degree. No sense in hurrying, right? :-D

  70. @MikeCoz68:

    “Everything happens for a reason” – Can anyone even explain that to me?” Yes. It’s a veiled reference to God/religion.

    “Things happen in threes” – Confirmation bias. Just ask them how many times did things did NOT happen in threes that they took no note of?

    ‘Science is always changing. Science admits it was wrong, but the bible’s been the same for x thousand years. And it’s never wrong. When it looks like it’s wrong it’s because you don’t understand.’

    No, it’s because science progresses by correcting its errors and moving on. Religion stagnates by not correcting its errors.

    Oh, one of my favorite evolution dodges by a fundie was that he “believed that micro-organisms evolve” (way too much proof to deny that one, I guess), “but that people do not.” Of course, I asked him WHY he thought people didn’t evolve and we were right back to religious dogma.

  71. QuestionAuthority – religions do correct their errors, they just don’t do it using the scientific method. Catholicism and rabbinic Judaism are responses to earlier priestly Judaism. Monastic reforms, Protestantism, and Islam are responses to Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity. Buddhism is a response to Hinduism.

    Do I have a preference for amending my beliefs about how the world works? You bet, scientific method answers most questions better; however, claims that religious beliefs do not change and self correct demonstrates a lack of understanding of religious history. Of course, most fundamentalists share your lack so probably no harm done.

    As for religious persecution in the US, I had a rather odd experience the other day walking through a Malaysian (a Muslim nation) owned grocery store here in Singapore (with its diverse Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, et al. religions) listening to Christmas Carols. Not just Rudolph and Frosty and Santa, but Silent Night type songs and I kept thinking about the political correct need in the States to say Happy Holidays. If Singaporean Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, et al. can walk through a grocery store and not feel oppressed by Hark the Herald Angels Sing, why does the US get so worked up about it? Why can’t we as lovers of science and skepticism fight the good fight on science funding, stem cell research, and resurrecting bunko squads and leave shopping mall soundtracks be?

  72. @ Mark Mulkerin

    I agree. I actually LIKE the Christmas songs even though I was raised in a Jewish household. In fact, when I was in college I learned to play Silent Night on my harmonica for my non Jewish girlfriend ; it was her favorite holiday song. Listen … any song that can get you laid more is a song worth fighting for indeed.

    So …

    Yay for science funding!
    Yay for stem cell research.
    Yay for debunking.

    But leave the damn music alone … especially if it gets you laid.

  73. The problem is that there are so many of them such as:

    Evolution breaks the 2d law of thermodynamics.
    There are no transitional fossils.
    Sea shells on mountains proves the global flood.
    Radiation decay rates were different 6000 years ago.
    The universe was created to appear old.

    And some who still believe the following:

    The earth is flat
    the sun revolves around the earth

  74. @ Nicole
    “Anytime astrology and astronomy are mixed up. Or anytime astrology is given credence.”

    completely. maybe not biggest. but definitely irritating

  75. QuestionAuthority
    No, it’s because science progresses by correcting its errors and moving on. Religion stagnates by not correcting its errors.”

    Yeah, that was my point. And I forgot: “But what if you don’t believe in god, but he really exits? You’ll be in big trouble. Can’t you just pretend?”

    First, according to the bible, no, I can’t just pretend. And second, if I thought there was even a chance god existed, I wouldn’t be an athiest, would I?

  76. @weatherwax: That element of Pascal’s Wager was the part that bothered me most. I can’t simply turn on belief like a switch, which means I’d be lying. I was under the silly impression from the religious that God knows and sees all. So who, exactly, would I be fooling?

  77. Mulkerin: To say religions self correct implies they replace incorrect beliefs with correst ones, but they usually just replace them with new superstitions. And within a short period of time people forget the changes, and believe the new doctrine is the way it’s always been. For example, during the last election cycle I kept hearing that the gays wanted to change marriage, “an institution that hasn’t changed in 500o years.” Of course it’s changed. The number of wives is limited now, and women have more rights than they did in the past. And frankly, as a celt/ viking, my ancestors either bought her and brought her home, or bopped her father over the head and brought her home.

    Also, to say islam is a response to cathloicism or any christianity isn’t accurate. It’s much more complex than that. And as with judaism and christianity, the doctrine on their origin is no where near accurate. Robert Price has just finished an excellent series on world religions that I highly recomend.

  78. @ weatherwax

    Of course, suggesting Islam was a response to Christianity is incomplete though Islamic teaching does position it as the fulfillment of Judaic and Christian prophetic traditions, so to that extent I say my statement has merit.

    As for incorrect vs. correct beliefs, I could cite instances where I think a religion dropped a bad belief and replaced it with a better one, but that would just lead to a downward spiral we see too often on skepchick. Instead, I will tell you to read Kuhn and point out that science doesn’t replace incorrect beliefs with correct ones. It posits theories that are useful until disproved. Correct or incorrect is for preachers, politicians, and your mother (and probably Miss Manners).

    Am I giving the two equal footing? No – just pointing out that most religions now disapprove of slavery, human sacrifice, stonings (Taliban excluded), etc. Could the methodology and speed improve? Sure, but these are self-corrections unless you prefer casting the first stone.

  79. OK, i had to register to get here, but i had to bring up one not mentioned so far: KARMA
    I mean , how many kids dying of cancer vs nazis living to a ripe old age do you have to be aware of before you realize that, while karma might seem a nice idea, nothing like it operates in this universe. But still these twats blithely say everytime someone cuts them off at the lights “oh, karma will get them”
    No. It won’t.

  80. When I say I’m working on getting my Master’s in quantum mechanics, the responce is

    40% of the time: “Oh, is that that stuff from The Secret/What The Bleep Do We Know? I thought that was nonsense.”
    40% of the time: “Oh, like in {Woo of choise}, that’s so awesome, I do that to.”
    The rest is either a blank stare or general interest.

    The other one I hate is “There are just some things (your) science can’t explain or test”.

  81. Mark Mulkerin: “I will tell you to read Kuhn and point out that science doesn’t replace incorrect beliefs with correct ones. It posits theories that are useful until disproved.”

    Yes, yes, I should have dressed it up in the proper language. My mistake. But my point is that science discards theories that aren’t useful (ie. are wrong).

    “…most religions now disapprove of slavery, human sacrifice, stonings”

    All true, but I think we’re wandering into moral beliefs, and away from beliefs about history and the world around us. For exmaple the world is not 6000 years old, the Isralites were not monothiests in “time of Moses”, there was no Moses (he’s a personification of a sun god), no Davidic/ Solomaic empire, Mecca was never a major center of trade and wasn’t the original direction of prayer, etc.

    I’m sorry I took so long getting back. Getting a little busy.

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