Mecca lecca hi

By Phil Plait | January 16, 2007 12:34 pm

Some people have accused me of being anti-religious, anti-christian, whatever. The truth is, I am anti-irrational. As long as you make sense, you’ll have no quarrel with me (well, that’s not strictly true– you can make sense and still be wrong… but if you don’t make sense then I guarantee you’ll be wrong).

But if you want to make absolutely no sense, spew irrationalities, and then claim that you are irrevocably correct and that everyone else is wrong, then fundamentalist religiosity is a great place to start.

Take this screed, for example. Acording to Dr. Abd Al-Baset Al-Sayyid, a "scientist" at the Egyptian National Research Center, we should dump Greenwich time and switch to… wait for it… Mecca time!

Abd Al-Baset Al-Sayyid: When British colonialism or the British kingdom were in control, and it was “an empire on which the sun never sets,” it imposed Greenwich Mean Time. This creates two problems for the world. The first problem is that in Greenwich, the magnetic field of Earth is 8.5 degrees, whereas in Mecca the magnetic field is zero.


Interviewer: What other benefits are there to calculating time according to Mecca?

Abd Al-Baset Al-Sayyid: If you calculate time according to Mecca, those 8.5 minutes… The magnetic field of Earth, for example… What I say is that there are people at the North Pole and the South Pole who cannot come here in multitudes.

Interviewer: Really?

Abd Al-Baset Al-Sayyid: This is because the magnetic force is concentrated there, which affects people’s blood and the biological movement of life. It has been proven that if magnetism, anywhere, exceeds 1,000 gauss, which equals one tenth of a tesla, it affects the ability of the hemoglobin in the blood to carry oxygen to the body’s tissues, the ability of the blood to carry oxygen to the tissues.

Interviewer: In other words, the ability to live…

Abd Al-Baset Al-Sayyid: Yes, to live… This means is that when you are in Mecca, the ability of the blood to carry oxygen to the tissues is greater than anywhere else in the world.

Interviewer: That’s why, when people travel to Mecca, they return full of energy.

Abd Al-Baset Al-Sayyid: In Mecca, you don’t exert any effort. That’s why you may see an old man, who cannot walk, or who walks with crutches, and even though it gets very crowded around the Ka’ba, he is filled with great strength, and he circles the Ka’ba. You do not exert any effort, and you are filled with energy, because you are in a place in which there is no magnetic force.

I was going to tear this apart step by step, but c’mon, why bother. This guy is so full of crap it would just be kind of sad to do it. People want to visit Mecca from the north and south poles? That ought to be a short list. And the stuff about magnetic fields and blood is utter garbage. I have had MRIs on my back and my knee in the past, and if blood flowed differently depending on magnetic field strength, my body would have exploded like an overstuffed balloon during the procedure. MRIs use a huge magnetic field, tens of thousands of times stronger than the Earth’s field. Plus, what does anything he is saying have to do with Greenwich time? It’s like Al-Sayyid wrote down scientific-sounding words on a piece of paper, cut it into pieces, and drew them randomly out of a hat.

So this guy is full of it. But why get upset?

What makes me so angry about stuff like this is that he claims he’s a scientist, when he is anything but, together with the fact that this is all based on fundamentalist Islam. So what we have here is a middle-eastern version of the young Earth creationist, someone who has the incredible ability to totally ignore every single fact and observation about reality, and instead substitute them with fantasy based on something in an ancient book written before we understood germs and electricity.

But what really, really makes me angry is that I know that this twinkie will be praised by millions of people who will take his word as, pardon the expression, gospel. They won’t wonder that Dr. Al-Sayyid’s words were sent over the Internet — a triumph of human engineering knowledge — or that what he said was broadcast over a television signal that took centuries of scientific progress to create.

Fundamentalist ignorance is many things, but irony is one of of its most obvious properties. But another property, and its most insidious, is its infection rate. The only cure for this sort of thing is knowledge.

Arm yourself.


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