Around the Weird Wide Web

By Phil Plait | March 19, 2008 10:00 am

I’ve been getting a spate of emails lately with links to other sites of interest, so I thought a link dump might be in order.

First, a real science site: ReducedMass is a new science blog that the author described to me as a Gizmodo for science, and I’d agree. it’s not snarky, but it is funny and cute.

Second, a marginally sciencey page on Religious Tolerance that lists many end-of-the-world predictions that have failed to come to pass, from 30CE to 1990. They could easily double the length of the list by bringing it up to 2008. The thing about EotW predictions is, they will all be wrong… until one isn’t.

The third is, well, I think someone who is saying that NASA is lying and planets are hollow and they all have life, based on a Hindu religious text. I don’t care what your religion is, if your holy book contradicts everything we know about reality, I pick reality.

The fourth is a video from some guy who is claiming… wait for it… Columbia was shot down by aliens! What is it about reality and evidence some people find so alarming? Not that you’ll make it through the first vid, but here’s a link to Part II as well. I accept no responsibility for melted brains.

Fifth, an Indian skeptic challenged a practitioner of black magic to kill him using his powers (Randi mentioned this as well in his weekly newsletter). Needless to say, reality won yet again. That reality! You just can’t wish it away!

Sixth, Senators Sam Brownback (R-Middle Ages) and Joe Lieberman (XXOO-McCain) want the U.S. Senate to take off from such ridiculous time-wasting things as government oversight and the tanking economy to recognize "the importance the Ten Commandments have in our nation", because, I assume, we are all totally worshipping false idols. And of course no one in the Senate would steal, or lie, or covet their neighbor’s ass. I guess there are already enough asses in the Senate.

I think that’s it for now. Read those sites and enjoy or experience schadenfreude to your heart’s content.

Tip o’ the tin foil beanie to all the BABloggees who are obviously trying to get me to lose weight due to an upset stomach.

Comments (49)

Links to this Post

  1. Failed end of the world prophecy’s « Lone Wolfs Den | March 19, 2008
  2. Negligible Knowledge Base | March 20, 2008
  1. ed

    “or *covert* their neighbor’s ass.”

    Just a quick edit for you, BA

  2. ed

    From the “Religious Tolerance” site:

    “About 90 CE: Saint Clement 1 predicted that the world end would occur at any moment.”

    I will boldly make the same prediction today. Prove me wrong. ;)

  3. Stupid fat fingers! I fixed it, thanks.

    … or maybe I meant that they secretly covet their neighbor’s ass. Hmmm.

  4. James

    Aliens shooting down Columbia? That’s just wrong to cheapen what happened by attributing it to aliens. I wonder how the people in the video keep a straight face while talking about this? Drugs? botox?

  5. “Whereas a marble relief portrait of Moses, the Hebrew prophet and bearer of the Ten Commandments, is located prominently in the United States Capitol over the gallery doors of the chamber of the House of Representatives in honor of his work in establishing the principles that underlie American law;
    Whereas images of the Ten Commandments are prominently displayed in many Federal buildings, including the United States Supreme Court, the National Archives, and the Library of Congress”

    Isn’t one of the 10 Commandments they want to celebrate something about lying?

  6. Michael Lonergan

    I’ve seen the video claiming that Columbia was shot down by a UFO before. I watched them again (there are 2 parts) and this is utter nonsense. The claims made by these individuals make absolutely no sense. The individual that claims he observed 2 UFO’s from his hotel in Texas is simply beyond belief! His claim that 2 UFO’s were observed for 10 minutes hovering at 100,000 feet (his estimate) is ludicrous. First of all, you cannot even make the claim that they were at that altitude as it would be almost impossible to estimate altitude without some reference point to judge by. Not to mention the fact that it would be next to impossible to determine color and structure of an object at that altitude.

    Secondly, they bring out the old “Amateur Astronomer” story, as if that would add any credibility. Just because some guy owns a telescope with a camera does not make him an “Amateur Astronomer.” (Think John Lenard Walten – another “Amateur Astronomer” making some wild claims of secret space machines in orbit that he’s imaged, or imagined.) Where are these supposed pictures today? Ahhh, NASA has them. How “convenient.”

    Thirdly, I find it despicable that these people are denigrating the memory of these brave men and women that put their lives on the line every day for the sake of human progress. I think the lives of Rick Husband and his crew deserves far more respect than this.

    Interestingly one individual makes a Canadian connection (my country). It does not help that we have a former defense Minister (Paul Helleyer) claiming that the US is engaged in a secret war with ET’s and has a secret moon base. Just because someone held a position of authority and respect back in the 1960′s does not mean that that person has an ounce of credibility today, many years later.

  7. Yoshi_3up

    There’s about 3 to 10 End of the World predictions every year. I can name three right now, out of my head:

    1.- Two days ’till Satan loses ruleship on hell! 4 days ’till the beginning of the kingdom of God! The Lord’s Witnesses are predicting the beginning of the end on March 21st, 2008. This is the same group that predicted a nuclear bomb on Manhattan (And eventually the target widened to the entire East Coast of the US) nearly every week since June 2006. They now say that a nuclear bomb will fall before March 21st, 2008. If nothing happens by then… Well… What can I say. They weren’t right the first 85 times (All actually counted).

    2.- Russian cult decided to make an underground shelter to protect from Armaggedon that will happen some day in May 2008. They have threatened to those who want to take them out that they will set themselves on fire at the least sign of opression. Apparently, their leader is on jail for fraud after this whole business.

    3.- This guy, Ronald Weinland, claims that he was sent from GOD to reveal that Armaggedon will begin on 2008. He has a glossy book and everything in order to back himself up.

    Meh. My little brother is scared of the first, the Lord’s Witnesses, so I tried to put him on reason… fruitlessly. But anyways, what can we do? Doomsday prophets will keep coming and coming and coming and coming… until the sun goes red giant in 4.7 billion years or so. THAT will be the end of the world.

  8. Mark Martin

    At holloworbs.com it asks what the Venera probes’ parachutes were made of, insinuating that a “mere” parachute surely can’t survive a descent through the hot Venusian atmosphere. It then makes a snide remark about NASA vs the Russian space agency.

    And… it makes no mention that the author has actually bothered to research the problem, to see if it even makes sense. Par for the course: ask just enough questions to get to where you wish to be- but no further.

  9. KC

    The list at Religious Tolerance is *very* abbreviated. OTOH it doesn’t claim to be unabridged. I take exception with three items and question a forth. The first three are best understood within the context of Christian belief:

    1. Jesus’ prediction. First, we have to remember that Jesus Himself said that He didn’t know when these events would take place (Matt. 24:36). With this in mind, Matt. 24:34 is taken to mean either the Siege of Titus and the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, the general age of the time from then until His return, or this refers to the time the events would take place (all in one generation) rather than the time leading up to the events.

    Matt. 16:38 is immediately followed by the Transfiguration on the Mt. of Olive (Matt. 17:1 – 9) and some take this as fulfillment of the prophesy. Other consider this fulfilled at the Resurrection. Judas Iscariot had committed suicide and did not live to witness it.

    2. Paul counseled believers to live as though Jesus Christ could return at any moment Jesus Himself taught the same thing. Paul was living with that expectation. OTOH, some believers apparently had quit their work in anticipation of Christ’s return, and Paul taught against it. Therefore, although Paul lived with the expectation that Jesus Christ could return at any moment, he realized it might also happen at a later date.

    3. St. Clement echoed this same sentiment. In fact, all Christians are to live as though Jesus Christ could return at any moment. This is what St. Clement was writing about.

    4. Wars of Conversions around 1000 AD. I’m skeptical of this, but until I learn more, it’s merely a question mark.

  10. Charles

    I have learned to be wary of anyone who claims that everyone else is lying and that they have all the answers, especially if they claim to exclusively know the truth.

    Compare and contrast to Phil — who obviously knows a ton more about astronomy than any of us. Seems like he tells us about something here and gives us some corroborating links to investigate.

  11. Yoshi_3up

    As KC said, Religious Tolerance has a very abbreviated list of ALL of the End of the World predictions. You might want to take a look at this website instead: http://www.abhota.info/

    This website is a tad more complete, but still it doesn’t include doomsday prophecies like that the world will end tomorrow, made by me. I say it will end tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow…

    You can prove me wrong tomorrow, though.

  12. Man, I would LOVE to find videos of the Indian news show with the Indian skeptic – does anyone have a link? I search YouTube but came up empty (just a bunch of non-scientific junk).

  13. Quiet_Desperation

    ed said, “About 90 CE: Saint Clement 1 predicted that the world end would occur at any moment.”

    I will boldly make the same prediction today. Prove me wrong.

    Oops. I’m sorry. Your moment has passed. :-)

  14. Brian

    Dont’ forget the teachings of the atheist prophet D. N. Adams. A close reading of his scripture indicates that the world will be destroyed some time in the 1980s.

    Of course, since it’s now 2008, some would say that this prophecy is merely an “entertaining fiction”. But I hold the faith! I know the truth! Clearly, we are soon to adopt a new calendar.

  15. dave

    I don’t know why more people don’t believe in a hollow earth. It’s so obviously true. All you have to do is jump up and down real hard, and you can actually hear the echo.

  16. sublunary

    Wow there are weird people out there. I’d think we’d all be passed being surprised by that fact, but I continue to be surprised and bemused. and sometimes a little horrified.

    On the plus side, the hollow orb guy has inspired me to go learn more about Venus. Assuming the unusual features he mentioned are not all in his imagination, or photograhic artifacts, there’s got to be some interesting planetary stuff going on there. I wonder if the poles are truly flattened and what causes that…

  17. Quiet_Desperation

    Aliens shooting down Columbia? That’s just wrong to cheapen what happened by attributing it to aliens.

    Oh, we can make it much cheaper.

    How are WalMarts and the Columbia alike?

    They are both all over Texas.

    Whats the difference between the New England Patriots and the Columbia?

    The Patriots made it past New Orleans.

    Yes, I am going to Hell.

    Oh, wait, it doesn’t exist. No I’m not! :-)

  18. Jeffersonian

    The hilarious (or sad, if you prefer) irony is that the site call itself religious tolerance and it’s completely intolerant and for intolerant people. It’s like visiting “notawebsite.org”

  19. Mark Martin

    sublunary,

    The Venusian poles aren’t really especially flattened. That page from holloworbs cites this from a book by Joseph H. Cater, a metaphysicalist. The page author was “quoting from the choir”, so to speak, without pointing readers to the maps themselves.

    As for where Cater came to such a notion, I thunk he’s probably referring to radar data returned by the Pioneer Venus probe of 1978, which orbited within a rather narrow inclination to the planet’s equator. This accounts for the large, smooth polar regions he speaks of; there’s just no data for those areas. Later probes have mapped close to 100% of Venus’s surface, and there are no anomalous flatlands at the poles.

  20. Carey

    Women are always coveting my ass, yet I still somehow manage to snatch celibacy out of those particular jaws.

  21. Brian:

    Dont’ forget the teachings of the atheist prophet D. N. Adams. A close reading of his scripture indicates that the world will be destroyed some time in the 1980s.

    It did, we were all just too drunk or hung-over to notice. (Another idea attributed to DNA :-)

  22. Well, the Ten Commandments do form the basis of what eventually became many of our laws. (Hence the [totally non-religious-related] image of Moses, along with many other lawmakers, on the Supreme Court building.)

    On the other hand, I have no idea what “Ten Commandments Weekend” would entail, and I somehow doubt that they would be anywhere near as enthusiastic about something called “Koran Appreciation Day”.

  23. Oh, and the world will end “at any moment”. That “moment” may be some time far into the future, but there will be some “moment” where it can be said that “the world has ended”. :-)

  24. Mark Hansen

    I think the next probe to Venus ought to carry the believers of a hollow Venus, complete with gardens of paradise etc., and deposit them near the poles or anywhere else they choose to land. Then they can let us know what the conditions are really like. They get a really good, final, lesson in science and our planet’s IQ goes up. They can take Sibrel & Hoagland as independent witnesses. Everybody wins!

  25. “Well, the Ten Commandments do form the basis of what eventually became many of our laws. (Hence the [totally non-religious-related] image of Moses, along with many other lawmakers, on the Supreme Court building.)”

    Ummm, no. The only ones of the 10 Commandments that made it into American law are “don’t kill people” and “don’t steal things”, neither of which was exactly original to Moses.

    On the other hand, the very first commandment is explicitly forbidden by the First Amendment.

  26. wintermute: also, “Don’t bear false witness” (aka, no lying under oath). But it should be noted that almost all legal systems incorporate those rules.

    I’m reminded of Stephen Colbert interviewing the congressman from Georgia who wants the Ten Commandments (which version, I wonder?) on every courthouse. Colbert asks him what the commandments are and the guy can name, I think, four all told.

  27. dave

    I’d be careful about mocking Hoagland. He’s one of the most insightful geniuses of our time, and could probably whoop Phil in a debate.

  28. Michael Lonergan

    Let’s not forget, The “Big 10″ were based on earlier laws, such as the Hammurabi Code.

    John, I saw that interview, it was totally hilarious, but a sad example of how these people lack knowledge of issues they supposedly are experts on.

  29. Michael Lonergan

    Dave, yes, by confusing him to death! :)

  30. Tukla in Iowa

    and could probably whoop Phil in a debate

    I suppose it’s possible since most debates are won by rhetoric, not evidence, but Hoagland would still be wrong wrong wrong.

  31. Sili

    I have learned to be wary of anyone who claims that everyone else is lying and that they have all the answers, especially if they claim to exclusively know the truth.

    The late Jens Martin Knudsen was wont of using a quote (the attribution escapes me): “Join forces with those that seek the truth, but be wary of those who claim to have found it.”

  32. Todd

    Do we have any legal historians that could shed a little more light, with sources, as to the legislative history of the Constitution?

    I just recently finished reading Moral Minority, which pointed out that some of our big name founding fathers were far from devout Christians. It was a good read and seemed to be well-researched, while also pointing out (though mostly in passing) that some of the other big names were believers. Some of the legislative history, particularly of the First Amendment, was included.

  33. HvP

    I would say that it is certainly ironic to cite a relief of Moses and the 10 Commandments as a tribute to the 10 C’s considering that one of the commandments forbids making graven images of anything in Heaven or Earth.

  34. KC

    Yoshi_3up:

    Nice site. Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t see mention of the “Comet-Kohoutec is going to drown us all in oil on Dec. 25, 1973″ that received national coverage.

    There seems to be a connection between bad times and obsession with “the end of the world.” The end of the Vietnam War and loss of national prestige seemed to usher in an eschatology craze that lasted into the 1980s. There was the Christ would return by 1984 (I wonder what George Orwell would have thought of that). A preacher once told me he’d received junk mail for “Eighty-Eight Reasons Christ Will Return by 1988.” In 1988 he received junk mail for “Eighty-*Nine* Reasons Christ Will Return by 1989.”

    And so it goes.

    - Kevin J. Cheek

  35. Jeffersonian

    Our notion of right and wrong predates and conincides with a few of the hundreds of commandments in the Hebrew bible (there is no ONE set of 10 commandment in the bible). Coincides as in coincidental. These concepts would be in place now as law even if the bible did not exist. Our laws don’t come FROM any set of ten commandments; just as most common sets of commandments were in place in pagan cultures before the Jewish tribe became strong, developed a self-identity, and wrote them down in a book called Leviticus, et al. If you want to have freedoms and protections, indeed organized civilization, those laws are just common sense.

  36. csrster

    Wouldn’t it be entertaining if Lieberman were supporting a motion that the USA should obey all of the Bible’s 613 commandments? Imagine if every federal courthouse in the USA had the prohibition against mixing linen and wool engraved above its door.

  37. Mark Hansen

    Mocking Hoagland? Nay, good sir, I was but ensuring that a former NASA expert would keep things above board and also report back on all those artificial features that must be there. Sibrel is just in there for ballast.

  38. cynthia

    The Religious Tolerance website is full of fascinating information; I’ve been reading it for years.

    I have only one problem with it: they print guest essays by just about anyone, and somehow, they often get real doozies. The most recent one features a comparison between the God of the Old Testament and the God of Evolution. The Old Testament God wins as more humane, so therefore Evolution is false.

  39. Mark Martin

    “The Old Testament God wins as more humane, so therefore Evolution is false.”

    This really typifies a kind of argument to which many theophiles appeal: they accept whatever makes them “feel” better. The whole point of religion is to make one feel comforted, reassured, good. That is its agenda.

    But arguing that evolution loses as a view of the world for this reason is much like saying that the Holocaust never happened- because it’s inhumane. Having confidence in whether or not it occurred is a matter of piecing it together from what’s found out here in the world. How repugnant it turns out to be per se is beside the point.

  40. Art

    Let us start an email campaign. Go to Lieberman’s site and say that he needs to list all of them. Go to Brownback’s site and say that you can’t recognize them unless you can list them. That should get the fundies arguing a bit.

  41. Art

    I should say, request that Brownback list all 10 as part of his resolution.

  42. Art

    I also looked at the end of the world site where I saw this, “1988-OCT-11: Edgar Whisenaut, a NASA scientist, had published the book “88 Reasons why the Rapture will Occur in 1988.” It sold over 4 million copies.”

    So much for scientists.

  43. Yoshi_3up

    KC:

    That “88 reason that the rapture will occur at 1988″ was actually made by an ex-NASA scientist. Oh boy.

  44. Faithful reader

    I just emailed both my senators with the following message

    “I hope this gets the skewering it deserves as a violation of the First Amendment.

    http://brownback.senate.gov/pressapp/record.cfm?id=294777

  45. Sili posts:

    [[I have learned to be wary of anyone who claims that everyone else is lying and that they have all the answers, especially if they claim to exclusively know the truth.

    The late Jens Martin Knudsen was wont of using a quote (the attribution escapes me): “Join forces with those that seek the truth, but be wary of those who claim to have found it.”]]

    How can you search for truth if you’re convinced you’ll never find it? What’s the point?

  46. Mark Martin posts:

    [[The whole point of religion is to make one feel comforted, reassured, good. That is its agenda.]]

    Right. My religion, Christianity, makes people feel comforted and reassured by telling them that they’re sinners, and that if they’ve ever refused to help someone who really needed it they’re going to Hell. Oh, and that every idle word they’ve ever spoken is going to be judged.

    How reassuring and comforting can you get?

    Jesus Christ did not command his disciples to “Go into the world and tell it that it is quite all right the way it is and has nothing to worry about.”

    As far as I can see, it’s the atheists and secular humanists who are the real pollyannas. The atheists think all human objectives can be achieved through education, and the humanists think human beings are intrinsically good. You can’t get much more reassuring and comfortable than that.

  47. Michael Lonergan

    Barton, then what is the point of your loving Heavenly Father? Doesn’t Jesus Himself say that after He leaves, He will send another “Comforter?” The Spirit?

    I left religion for many reasons, one was the fact that I had no reassurance from God. What’s the point of living life constantly being brow-beaten by an omnipotent thug? If, as Christians preach, God is my Father, why does He condemn His children to hell for doing something that p***es Him off? I don’t know if you have children, but I do, and if I treated my children in that way, threatening them with punishment and damnation every time they erred, they would have every right to report me for child abuse. IMO, the God of the Bible is an abusive, dysfunctional, megalomaniac father that desires to have his huge ego stroked by subservient minions.

    BTW, I also believe that most (not all), but most people are intrinsically good. Unfortunately we never hear about them on the news. We DO hear about the one’s that are intrinsically evil. Are they born that way? Was there something in their environment that turned them that way? Is there some kind of genetic anomaly in them? I don’t know. It’s possible that all of those factors are involved. I know people that have grown up in the most horrid and abusive homes, people I counseled when I was a minister, even though they had every excuse to be the embodiment of evil, they were extremely good people. (No, they were not all Christians, either.) At the opposite end of the scale, there are people (my ex bro-law comes to mind) that grew up in very moral, religious homes that have committed atrocious acts of “evil.” I don’t really think religion, or “relationship with Jesus” makes an ounce of difference.

    We do not need to blame the evil in this world on a potent malevolent fallen angel, the devil. Things just happen. The sooner we deal with that reality, instead of turning to a supposedly loving Creator, or blaming a potent force of evil, the better off we will be.

    I’m not sure how much trust we can put in the words of a man that believed people with epilepsy were possessed by demons. I wonder what this man would think of my daughter that has Down syndrome?
    I can tell what I would do if such a man told her she was possessed. Wipe the floor with him.

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