Today's sermon will be delivered by Firefox 3.5.2

Firefox makes a suggestion about Answers in Genesis

Yeah, that figures. I wouldn't trust 'em either.

I'm not sure exactly how I got to this oddly apposite error, though I do know why it happened, and will bore those of you intrepid enough to make it all the way through this latest Wall-O-Words™ post with an explanation.

It all started when I read An Evolutionary Biologist Visits the "Creationism Museum", which is by PZ Myers, the Pharyngula guy and well-known desecrator of all that is holy.

The Creation Museum is a product of Answers in Genesis, or AiG, not affiliated with the other AIG, but similarly untaxable. AiG was founded by Ken Ham, an Australian-born evangelist whom we exported to the USA in 1987.

You're welcome.

(In case you were wondering, there also exists a Web site called "Answers in Revelation". It's pretty much what you'd expect - a little like "The Lord's Witnesses", but less apologetic.)

AiG's Creation Museum is a place which surely ranks among the Seven Wonders of the Whacko American Christian World (there obviously isn't really a Christian world outside the USA; it's like the World Series). The Museum is up there with the Crystal Cathedral, the even-more-gigantic Lakewood Church, the sadly-diminished Precious Moments Chapel, Touchdown Jesus and... actually, that's all I've got, off the top of my head. I'm sure commenters will help me out, here, with some more examples of the various US Jay-sus-uh enterprises' attempts to top each other in visible-from-geostationary-orbit violations of Matthew 6.

PZ Myers' article linked to the Christian page of this Cracked piece about baffling Web comics. One of the less peculiar comics told its readers to visit Answers in Genesis for the answer to one of the real posers of the Book of Genesis.

I speak, of course, of the bit where the recently-Marked Cain suddenly acquires an (un-named) wife. This is a bit surprising, seeing as the Bible has to this point mentioned a world population of exactly four people, the only female among them being Cain's mother, Eve.

Christians who bother to address a silly creation-myth plot-hole like this fall into two camps.

The first camp asserts that there were other, pre-Adamic humans, and Cain married one of them. Many white-supremacists hold that these pre-Adamic "mud people" are the ancestors of modern-day black people, who are therefore subhuman pre-Genesis prototypes on their ancient mother's side, and on their ancient father's side cursed by God. So, uh, you needn't feel bad about lynching, raping and/or enslaving 'em, 'cos they're not really people at all.

Answers In Genesis rightly deny this outrageous calumny.

They, instead, belong to the camp which reckons that Cain's wife "was either his sister or a close relative".

Because, for reasons having to do with Original Sin, AiG are certain, to the point of putting up a display on the subject in the Creation Museum, that it is impossible for any humans alive today to not be descended from Adam and Eve, and Adam and Eve alone.

Well, unless AiG's whole huge edifice of biblical literalism is to collapse.

(Given the extreme ages people allegedly lived to back in Genesis, and the parallel and unconnected Sethite and Cainite lineages, it's conceivable that Cain's wife was not actually his sister, but could have been his great-great-great-grandniece. Which is much less disturbing, I'm sure you'll all agree. Note that the completely unconnected Sethite and Cainite lineages each contain a dude called Enoch and another dude called Lamech, not to mention about four other pairs of guys with very similar names; there are actually only four people out of 16 who don't seem to have been struck by this extraordinary nominative correspondence. AiG assure us all that there's no way this could just be two differently-Chinese-Whispered versions of the same list of names. Obviously, the real question is if, when and how angels cross-bred with humans!)

Reading on through An Evolutionary Biologist Et Cetera, I had to admit that the Creation Museum has got some pretty cool displays. I mean, check out this awesome Noah's Ark diorama! And it's not nearly their whole Ark exhibit; they've got plenty more, including a recreated chunk of the Noah's Ark Construction Site! Don't miss the dinosaurs!

People like AiG, who believe the Noah story is literally true, have had to enlarge their Ark size estimates. The Bible clearly says that the Ark was 300 cubits long, but it doesn't say how long a cubit was. The road is therefore open for people like AiG to discover ever-larger sizes of "cubit", and thereby make their Ark bigger and bigger as those troublesome scientists keep discovering more and more species.

I'm not sure why AiG feel this is necessary, since it's also normal for people presenting the literal-Flood argument to say that God preserved the Ark from harm, helped to steer it to Mount Ararat, after the Flood helped the koalas make it to Australia and the polar bears make it to the Arctic, and possibly also helped Noah with the gigantic engineering task of building the Ark in the first place.

(Check out how long it takes for the average backyard boat-builder to make a small vessel; adding more family members and making it a full-time job helps, but making the project about a thousand times the size would still leave Noah and family felling trees, dressing wood, hammering, sawing, carrying and caulking for decades, at the very least.)

So I don't see what the big deal is about God making the Ark into a TARDIS as well, so it could hold as many animals as necessary without having to be as long as HMS Dreadnought, and much wider. This whole subject is a bit like discovering that there are people developing serious theories about how it was that Little Red Riding Hood failed to recognise a wolf dressed as her grandma, or calculating exactly how large a cottage could be built out of gingerbread.

But AiG reckon the Ark had to be big enough for all of the animals (and yes, they've got a Genesis Answer for the freshwater fish question). So the Ark had to be really, really, really big.

Different pages on the AiG site appear to disagree about how big the Ark was. I think the minimum is 450 feet - 137 metres. This measurement agrees with the New International Version's, uh, version.

But then, there's AiG's printable "Kids Answers Noah's Ark Bookmark" (PDF), which I consider as authoritative as anything else on the AiG site. The bookmark puts the Ark's length at a magnificent 510 feet, 155 metres. They also have a page for adults which concurs, and they proudly present an analysis from the Korea Association of Creation Research (by an extraordinary coincidence, the biggest megachurch in the whole world is in Korea...). The analysis concludes that a 135-metre Ark would have been seaworthy. With a bit of encouragement, I bet it'd stretch another 20 metres.

In the boring old secular world, the SS Great Western was, as I've mentioned before, the biggest properly seaworthy ocean-going wooden ship ever built, and its hull was about 65 metres in length (including the bowsprit, it was more than 70 metres). Even this size was too much for wood alone; Brunel used iron bands to hold the ship together.

Wooden ships bigger than the Great Western have been built on several occasions, but none dealt well with waves, and they often disappeared on their maiden voyages. No wooden ship even close to the size of even a mere 450-foot Ark has ever ventured to sea. Nobody can prove that the Ark wouldn't have worked just fine, of course, because nobody knows how it was built; there may be some amazing construction method lost to the ages, and proving there isn't is impossible.

Ark-believers like to bring up the subject of other ultra-gigantic wooden ships from the pages of history. Or, at least, from the pages of books that say they're history.

See, for instance, AiG's buddies at, who've got this awesome Flash size-comparer, which assigns the "most likely size" for Noah's Ark as a displacement of a mere "17000-28000 tonnes".

So, from the Graf Spee to the 1915 Revenge. I can totally see a family building something that big out of wood. How hard could it be?

The most impressive wooden vessels, besides the Ark itself, in the WorldwideFlood comparer are the two greatest hits in the world of mythical giant ships. First, there's Ptolemy IV's "Tessarakonteres", a mega-trireme alleged to have been rowed by four thousand oarsmen. And then, there's the Chinese eunuch admiral Zheng He's treasure ships, which were presented as vast beyond the imaginings of the Western world in that bestselling book by Gavin Menzies.

(Menzies' claims received a less than entirely friendly response from those tiresome empirical-evidence fetishists.)

The Tessarakonteres and another outrageously large wooden ship also allegedly owned by Ptolemy IV, the 115-metres-if-it's-an-inch "Thalamegos", have a peculiar tendency to only be taken seriously on Web pages that also argue for the existence of Noah's Ark. I'm sure the total absence of any substantive evidence that either of the Ptolemaic ships was ever paid for, built, crewed, sailed, sunk or salvaged has nothing whatsoever to do with the sad lack of orthodox academic interest in these extremely plausible ships about which it would be a terrible slander to say they're as physically practicable as building an Empire State Building out of pine.

(Or larch.)

For comparison, consider historically-supported large wooden vessels like the Syracusia, which ended up in the possession of Ptolemy III, or Caligula's giant round barge and "Nemi ships". The Syracusia probably existed, but is only said to be a - possibly exaggerated - 55 metres in length. And Caligula's ships pretty definitely existed, but were really just huge lake pontoons, that would have broken up at sea.

I can, at this juncture - quite a bit before this juncture, actually - hear readers begging me to stop poking at this nonsense and finish the review of that new computer you all bought me. But I think there's something more to engaging with preposterous speculations, like AiG's mania for persuading us all that the world began in the late Neolithic, than the mere sideshow-freak quality of the exercise. I think there's a significant educational value to chasing these silly rabbits. It leads you directly to basic philosophy-of-science questions like, "how do we know something is true?", and "what is truth, anyway?", and "what is sufficient evidence for a given claim to be treated as true?"

These questions are absolutely fundamental to critical thinking for everybody, not just professional scientists. But I don't think they're on a lot of school curricula.

(Did any of you readers receive lessons in critical thinking before tertiary education, or even then? You'd think that there'd at least be room, somewhere in the school year, for a half-hour on the different levels of evidence needed to make plausible the claims "I own a cat", "I own a horse", "I own an elephant" and "I own a dragon"...)

Everybody, young and old, needs to know this stuff, and one of the most entertaining ways of learning critical thinking is by examining the writings of people who don't quite get this whole "science" thing. (I think a kid could pretty much copy and paste this post into a history and/or science assignment and get a decent mark, as long as their teacher wasn't a Young-Earther.)

The Creation Museum really does seem to be, as Myers says, the very opposite of an actual museum. If you want to read about what real science museums do, I suggest Richard Fortey's excellent Dry Storeroom No. 1, (out in paperback soon!). As Fortey explains in his idiosyncratic wander through just a few of the numerous paths that exist in just his one museum, and as the Wikipedia article on museums also currently says, a museum acquires, conserves and researches the heritage of humanity and its environment. People who work in the parts of proper museums that visitors never visit devote their entire lives to collecting, collating, categorising and analysing stuff from the real world. Fortey writes of several museum employees who, after their retirement, keep coming in and working for free, so dedicated are they to the pursuit of knowledge.

I presume the Creation Museum has some actual fossils and such, and every now and then there's another News of the Weird story about hopeful fundamentalists heading off on yet another doomed trip to find the big floating Ark or the little magic one. But such efforts have all the actual substance of a dolls' tea party. The Creation Museum is, like AiG, nothing more than a great steaming heap of ad-hoc hypotheses, built on faith and making no predictions (if you don't count failed prophecies about the end of the world). The Creation Museum performs no real research, has nothing to conserve but what their exhibit-builders constructed, and is uninterested in the acquisition of new evidence, because they've already got the primary source to end all primary sources.

The Creation Museum even manages to, as Myers also notes, get the layout of a real museum wrong. Instead of letting visitors pick their own path, it funnels them through its didactic exhibits in sequence, like a haunted house or Ikea shop. (Or like a Hell House, for that matter.)

Once again, the Bible-thumpers have approximated the form, but failed to deliver the content, of the scientific endeavour. This is pretty much the definition of "pseudoscience"; pseudoscience is to real science as patent medicines were to real medicines.

Actually, that's a little unfair to patent medicines, which often contained desirable substances like alcohol, opium or cocaine. But I suppose people in hopeless situations could gain just as much comfort from religious hoo-hah as they could from opium.

Oh yes. The funny error. Remember the funny error that kicked off this bulging tumour of a post?

Firefox makes a suggestion about Answers in Genesis

The error happened because I followed a link, from some damn place, to, which attempts to use the SSL encryption certificate for, whose suffix doesn't match the one in the certificate - and hey presto, there's the snigger-inducing error.

The main Answers in Genesis site is, but they also own, thus protecting that domain from being hijacked by the vile Satanists who dare to question AiG's Answers. AiG do actually have their act together as regards this stuff; if you go to it redirects you to the .org site, and neither of them try to use SSL so no certificate error appears. redirects, not entirely elegantly, to the home page of, but that and the .com/.org SSL certificate thing is the only other bug I've found.

And now a reminder for any intrepid readers who've made it this far: Please nominate further Wonders of the American Religious World, and/or tell us all who, if anyone, taught you critical thinking!

39 Responses to “Today's sermon will be delivered by Firefox 3.5.2”

  1. RichVR Says:

    Well. My day is shot. Time to start researching how big can you make a house out of gingerbread...

  2. stbt Says:

    On a family vacation last month, I was forced had the privilege of seeing Noah the Musical. It was represented as "A fictional account of an actual event." They added this disclaimer because they took some liberties with the story to make it good theater and didn't want to offend any fundies in the audience.

    I must say that from a production standpoint, it was rather amazing. From a critical thinking standpoint, it was utterly depressing.

    The props and set were fantastic. After the intermission, curtains revealed the inside of the ark wrapped 180 degrees around the audience. It was complete with real and animatronic animals. It was interesting to note how they addressed certain key points to keep the fundamentalists happy. Great pains were taken to explain how enough food was carried on the ark, the work required to build it, how it was built, etc. And it ended with Jesus appearing out of the ark to assure everyone that the world was once again plummeting into a maelstrom of debauchery, and he would appear again soon to save us. Of course information was available after the show for anyone who needed guidance or was concerned about their salvation.

    As for critical thinking skills, I'm not sure that anyone in particular taught me them. You kind of have to pick them up as you go through engineering school. The sad thing is a lot of people have these skills, they just choose to not use them when the subject of religion is at hand.

  3. Thuli Says:

    If anyone did it was Dawkins. I read the Selfish Gene in one go, stayed up all night I found it so stimulating. Then re-read it again more slowly over a week or so. Awesome book.

  4. nynexman4464 Says:

    I don't recall being specifically taught critical thinking in high school or middle school. In New York State we had regents exams, which I think partly tried to have us use critical thinking, but I don't remember it being taught as a concept in of itself.
    In the college I attended we were required to take two Humanities courses. "Critical Thinking" was one such class that I took, and learned a lot in. Still not exactly required however.

  5. jwaddell Says:

    Someone's already built a life-size gingerbread house. Although it looks like the gingerbread was only used as cladding, so I guess it doesn't really count.

  6. Red October Says:

    I can't really say anything about true religious "wonders" in the US, but I can say that a disturbing percentage of people take that shit waaaayyy too seriously. You see, every now and then, and more frequently than you'd like, someone with one, or two, or fifty bumper-stickers with such trite little nuggets as "No Jesus, No Peace. Know Jesus, Know Peace." and often as well something either assinine (the "truth" or "Jesus" fish swallowing up the "Darwin" fish) or downright offensive (any of a number of statements regarding their idea on marriage and it constituting one man and one woman only, etc.) At least one state (Florida) has an actual custom number plate design (Note to foreigners: Not only are custom number plates where you get to pick the actual numbers fairly common in the US -in fact almost default in some places like New Hampshire- you can oftentimes pick a background design as well, for instance New Hampshire has one with a Moose, etc.) that has ugly, hand-drawn children's faces on it and the words "Choose Life". I've been sorely tempted to run them off the road. I dare say it's more offensive than a Prius with a peace sign or those tree-hugging Sierra Club jerkoffs in their Subarus. Can you tell I don't get along with either political party in my country?

    Anywho, since my parents put me through Catholic school (So when I tell you keep away from traditional religion I say so with the authority of the bedragled fellow with every other tooth left telling you to keep away from Crystal Meth), I never had anything resembling critical thinking. As I actually picked my own university (versus "Catholic school A or B?") I went to a state college that was naturally pretty much relgion-free, so I at least got a sound dose of the thinking man's worldview. My otherwise-rubbish (Predominantly "Western society, capitalism & technology are EVIL!) "Social Anthropology" course even talked about the evolution of man and why it's so hard to find fossils of our ancestors! (We were forest-dwellers, and forests have acidic soil.) But that course mischaracterizes the education I got at that university, which I found predominently excellent and satisfying. I also developed as much of a distaste for the socialists that made up a significant fraction of its numbers, and their views, as I did for the Catholics before them. Especially when you consider that those catholics were the socialist, "possessions, greed, commerce, etc. are EVIL" flavor as well. The only thing scarier than the religious right is the religious left.

  7. Red October Says:

    I'm also quite amused that firefox apparently indicates an issue with a site's credentials by using the international-symbol-for-are-your-papers-in-order?

  8. Kagato Says:

    Holeee crap. From that link to AiG's page on the Nephilim:
    They talk about their being four potential interpretations, from giant monsters which were the offspring of fallen angels and human women, to regular people who rejected God. A fairly radical difference in interpretation, if you ask me.

    Before going into further detail, the page states:

    As a ministry, Answers in Genesis does not officially take a specific stand regarding these four major views. It is not crucial to biblical authority, since each side in this debate, for the most part, is using the Bible as authoritative to make their case.

    In other words, any explanation -- no matter how bizarre, or incompatible with other explanations -- ia A-OK with them, so long as it doesn't contradict the rest of the Bible. (Not that this last bit is too strictly enforced either.)

    They are perfectly fine with any answer, and really don't care that only one could possibly "true". The only important thing is, whatever your answer, you got it from the Bible!

    I knew they felt this way, but to state it so baldly is a bit surprising.

  9. Itsacon Says:

    As I was reading this, my minidisc started playing the excellent live intro to Jesus he knows me by (who else) Genesis, in which Phil Collins impersonates an American TV preacher.

    Ain't coincidences great?

  10. Joseph Says:

    My first introduction to critical thinking as a concept was from a library book (I don't recall the title) in my early teens. It was several years before I really appreciated how valuable it is, but I still recall how much clearer the world seemed when viewed with a newly-critical mindset.

  11. steveg Says:

    Dan, Dan, Dan...

    You have the brain the size of a... well, at least a minor planetoid... and you use it to seek out the purveyors of snake-oil...

    It's your blog, and I do very much appreciate the amount it costs me to read it (ta!), but I can't help think you'd have more fun sourcing 100,000 sparklers and blowing them up (I'm thinking The Two Sisters is something to aim for :-).

    Or, hell, now Kari's had a kid, have you thought about applying for a job on Mythbusters?

  12. methuseus Says:

    I was taught bits and pieces of critical thinking by different teachers throughout school, but it was never required to be understood. I also got a lot from my father and my grandparents in that area. The main teacher was sci-fi books by Heinlein and the like.

    My nomination for American Christian Wonder is a 198-foot tall cross in Effingham, Illinois. I saw it while driving from Florida to northern Illinois where my parents live. It was sort of surreal. Wikipedia claims it's the tallest free-standing steel cross in the world.

  13. rho Says:

    It's kind of sad, really. The Bible is an important piece of human literature. Even Mencken endeavored to read from it daily. But once you take that one-step-too-far and say it's 100% literal, you really bung things up pretty badly.

  14. jkositarut Says:

    Wow, Daniel Rutter on the Mythbusters...

    That would be AWESOME!!!!

    Though, I think they brought Scotty back as the token hot-hot female mythbuster.

  15. AdamW Says:

    I went to a private school in the U.K. (Manchester Grammar School, for anyone aware of such things). For most of sixth form (the two years covering ages 17-18) I didn't bother taking a pen to school, but the one class from that time that I find useful multiple times every day was the one weekly class we got in Philosophy, which included a large dose of critical thinking, including the basics of formal logic. I'm firmly convinced every school in the world should make such a class compulsory for all students, preferably a little earlier (age 14-15 would be good).

  16. Stark Says:

    The bible is an important piece of human literature ONLY if you have a christian societal base from which you are reading it. You'd be far better served to go back to the actual source material much of the bible is lifted from - at least a dozen other pre-bible dating works of the various religions at that time. As for the literary value of the Bible itself, based on it's own merits, it has virtually none. It's poorly written, blatantly self contradictory and splintered beyond belief. Heck, the tripe that is the "Left Behind" series is better written than the bible and that's saying something because it's NOT well written tripe.

    If you remove the cultural trappings that virtually require the bible to be viewed through rose colored glasses you are left with a very poor book indeed.

    I doubt you'd find many in India who view the Bible as an important piece of literature...

  17. RichVR Says:

    While I have always been more or less a skeptic (I was raised Catholic by parents who really didn't care all that much about Catholicism) it took a book to teach me how to really think.

    Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer is that book. I wore it out rereading it and lending it out and recently bought a new copy.

  18. auraseer Says:

    The first class I recall that formally taught critical thinking was honors-level English in 7th grade (age 12ish). One of the textbooks for that class was called "Critical Thinking for Students" or some similar bland title. IIRC it was mostly aimed at developing arguments for use in debate, because our teacher was also the debate team coach, but it covered logical reasoning and criticism as opposed to empty rhetoric.

    This was in Long Island, New York, USA, in the late 80s.

  19. aquaman Says:

    I had the pleasure of growing up on the more shame and fear based end of biblical literalist spectrum. It may be grossly pop culture, but the first time I really thought outside the box that was my upbringing was when I saw The Wall at age 14. It inspired me to start asking questions about the world around me.

    There was still a period of years after that in which I really wanted to believe, so I began studying to be minister. The school I attended involved *gasp* actual biblical scholarship, which was the thing that finally blew an unrepairable hole in my fundamentalist belief. After hearing for so many years about the infallability of the bible, and how solid the evidence in favor of it supposedly was, actually seeing that evidence was an epic disappointment. I thought to myself "that's it, that's all the proof they've got?" Even if I were to assume that all of their evidence and analysis is totally accurate, it still wouldn't add up.

    There is no reasoned, evidence-based way to justify the claim that the bible is magically perfect and error free in a way that no other book has ever been or ever will be. Magical claims are not scientifically proven, and science done well has no need of magical justification.

    A side benefit of losing faith in an incoherent structure of doctrine: I don't have to worry anymore if I'm not hating gays enough, or not loving them enough. I can relax and just live.

  20. Steve H Says:

    Critical thinking in schools? Surely you jest. That would lead to students questioning their teachers, and they'll have none of that. It promotes lack of discipline.

    Or so it'd go. Sorry that this is half-baked, but I can't imagine that the idea of teaching critical thinking in schools is terribly new.

  21. Ben K Says:

    Christians have been debating, genesis stuff for years.
    for some things there is just not enough information, and it is less important than the big story.
    answers in genesis tend to take these issues and make them central to the bible. some people bite, and also make them central to the bible.
    please note that a few chapters earlier in the bible from the Noah story, God speaks and creates the entire world from nothing. helping Noah build an ark, float it and stuff some animals in there wouldn't be that hard a job for him.

    rather than fluffing about with the side issues in Christianity why not go for the jugular and use your critical thinking on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. that is the central issue in the bible and to christians, the bible says so itself:;&version=31;

    for less engaged answers, and more difficulties in the bible try this site:

    have fun.

  22. Xero Says:

    I remember when I was in 2nd grade at a religious school, I was probably 8 or 9 years old at most (i've read somewhere this is about the age when critical thinking begins in most kids), and they were teaching us about the ark. I asked the teacher "what about the dinosaurs?" and she said they couldn't fit on the ark. Ah yes, so that's why they're extinct! HA. I rejected religion shortly after and caused them (....and my parents) a bit of trouble, let's just say 2nd grade was the first and only year I ever attended a religious school.

  23. RichVR Says:

    This threadjack is brought to you by the most addictive free flash game that I have ever played:

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled thread.

  24. dr_w00t Says:

    Well Dan, I learned critical thinking from a little-known resident of a small country town just outside of Sydney, NSW. The town is named Katoomba and it is a crime that the resident isn't given more recognition.

    We all know who I'm talking about - the carved stone head of the goddess Ma Tsu in the Kedumba Nature Museum.

    I think it's fascinating that as a society we think our brains are modern and worldy and knowledgeable, nothing like the primitive brains of our recent ancestors of hundreds or thousands of years ago, when in fact we are exactly 100% identical to every previous generation of our species, with the addition of modern science.

  25. j Says:

    @Ben K
    "Less engaged" is an understatement. These guys are seriously trying to justify the ages put forth in Genesis?


    I guess it's a useful site for spotting some of the inconsistencies, but it contains some pretty awful arguments in attempting to reconcile them.

    It also has a fundamentalist protestant bias - I daresay one could find the same list of inconsistencies with arguments containing a Catholic bias too. Such is the peril associated with trying to make argument from the book itself.

    Back on topic - my early experiences with critical thought were mostly from my physics teacher at school. I remember the rants in class where he'd pick apart alternative medicine and other pseudo science fondly.

  26. j Says:

    Okay, I couldn't let this one go:

    "In the fallen world that mankind had created, slavery was a reality. God permitted its existence and worked within its system."

    That's remarkably accomodating of Him, isn't it?

    "Though slavery carries a very negative connotation here in America, it was not nearly as bad it was here in the first 100 years of our nation's existence."

    What I never understand about these people, is how they would even want to worship a god who does half the stuff they say he did.

    Perhaps God has hardened my heart because of the sins of my fathers, so I cannot be saved.

    But I doubt it.

  27. speedweasel Says:

    Who taught me critical thinking?

    Why YOU did Dan! Well, you kicked it off for me at least. Then with the help of a number of people, I picked up the ball and ran with it. My most sincere thanks go out to;

    Richard Feynman, Michael Shermer, Carl Sagan, Ben Goldacre, Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, James Randi, Pen & Teller, Aristotle, thunderf00t, Thomas Gilovich, Douglas Adams, Orac, David Colquhoun, and many more.

    Thanks Dan :)

  28. joseph is me Says:

    Critical thinking is one of the underlying themes in these young adult books by Terry Pratchett, the Trilogy goes:
    'The Wee Free Men'
    'A Hat Full of Sky'

    I've read them a couple of times as an adult and enjoy the intelligence and humor. While can't claim an actual testimonial ;) I'd like to think they'd be a good way to introduce a young person to the idea that thinking straight is an important skill.

  29. Changes Says:

    Good grief, man, you spend way too much time (and words) arguing against religious stuff.
    The only response that the statement "I'm an ark believer" deserves is "um, ok", followed by systematically ignoring anything the speaker ever says again.

    Discussion is futile: you yourself state that you can't reason anyone out of anything they didn't reason themselves into, so why even bother? Life's too short to spend small but significant fractions of it arguing with/against irrational people.

    Next time you feel like ranting on religion take a deep breath, fire up Fallout 3 and release your frustration blowing up mutants. :P
    Not that I don't appreciate reading your rants, mind you, but I'm worried about your liver. :)

    As for teaching critical thinking: I was pretty much a hard-evidence person, and atheist to the core, even before starting to read you, but you certainly contributed in my turning from simply an atheist to an all-out anti-religious person. Note that this doesn't mean that I go around preaching atheism, it just means I think the world would be a far better place without religion, and have no qualms saying that to people who ask me which deity I believe in. It also causes the most hardcore of them to make faces that I find very funny, though what they usually say after that goes straight to /dev/null.

    Itsacon: heh, I thought I was the only one who still occasionally used a Minidisc player, though I do it mostly for nostalgia. :P

  30. Red October Says:

    Changes, I have a minidisc player. I loved it but it betrayed me, not playing correctly when it was too hot, too cold, etc. It was some sort of creeping failure, because when last I pulled it out and tried it, it wouldn't play with an alkaline cell but a rechargeable (with much lower internal resistance) could fire it up right away. I lost the disc that contained the bizarre, memory-sapping, proprietary software that was needed to load MP3s onto it (thanks Sony), so since I got a new computer ages ago I never used it anyway.

    In regards to Dan's frustration with religios types, I point you towards this particular XKCD strip: I think that sums it up nicely.

  31. Stoneshop Says:

    If you apply OBSERVATION to an IKEA shop layout, you will see shortcuts past most of the departments. Then by applying SCIENTIFIC REASONING you can determine a route that takes you from entrance to exit past the departments you do want to visit with a minimum of having to walk through departments you don't.

    So it doesn't quite compare to the Creationist "Museum". Also, you may come out of an IKEA shop actually having gained something useful, like IVAR bookshelves.

  32. TwoHedWlf Says:

    You don't get it, Stoneshop. I've never been in or even seen an IKEA but I have faith that it exists...:P Unlike anything from the bible.

    I've always loved the whole pile of Adam and Eve issues. If Eve was made from Adam that would basically make her a clone of Adam. So, would him breeding with her be masturbation or incest?

  33. Stoneshop Says:

    @TwoHedWlf: I could be wrong, but I thought the initial reference to IKEA shops was regarding having a fixed path through one, just like the Cretin^H^H^Hationist "Museum". With IKEA shops, that is pertinently, scientifically-provable untrue. And you don't have to have faith that IKEA shops exist; they do. You can take my word for it (grin).

  34. fuzzyillogic Says:

    Dan, I love you: deeply and forever. XD


    *wishes he could throw millions of dollars in DR's general direction*

  35. iworm Says:

    Well as regards where I first learnt critical thinking: 'tis a funny old thing.

    I spent most of my education in the tender loving care of Catholic monks. Prayers every day, mass, beatings, gropings, etc. To no one's teensiest surprise, I'm now a card-carrying atheist.

    Yet the only time we ever learned how to *think* was in the RE classes taken by a particular monk. Seriously: while I now dismiss his deeper religious beliefs totally, it turns out that he, as an educated man, also had a deep problem with much of the Bible. In particular, the "Miracles". He had us, over some weeks, take several of the major miracles (Feeding 5K, Water to Wine, etc.) and systematically analyse them and explain how in fact they could have occurred and just been misreported by gullible folks. That study involved understanding cultural norms of the time and place, human psychology, and so on.

    Interesting, and possibly worrying, that the sole instance of education in critical thinking came from a priest! So not all religious believers are crazies. Most, yes. But not all. :-)

  36. RichVR Says:

    "Also, you may come out of an IKEA shop actually having gained something useful, like IVAR bookshelves."

    Or several net bags of smooth black stones. For $1.25 (US) each. I love my new pet rocks!

    So Red October, is that you playing Elements?

  37. Red October Says:

    Nah, I haven't had time to look at that game now. I'm deep into the world of Doom mods and WADS, and my boss has been sick in hospital so I've been pulling crazy shifts at work. Wish I had time to pick up something new. And now thanks to Dan I see there is a new patch to Supreme Commander, so I will probably pick that back up when I have time.

    Just listened to "Hammerheads" by Shriekback, pretty plainly about religious crazies like this. Give a listen if you will.

  38. corinoco Says:

    Noah's Ark vs. HMS Dreadnought. I'd pay to see that.

    I use my MD player almost every day; it's a Hi-MD, and modern SonicStage software is nothing like the awful stuff of 3 years or more ago.

  39. KilgoreTrout Says:

    My wake-up moment was after spending an evening with a cousin I hadn't met in 15 years. He was going on and on about encounters with UFO:s, Illuminati conspiracies, reptile lords and other-dimensional experiences. He was totally serious.

    I politely listened to what he had to say but left with the strange sensation that my view of reality wasn't the same as his. But what made my perception of the world more valid?

    I then found "Why people believe weird things" by Michael Shermer. As a previous poster mentioned, it was an eye-opener. I then proceeded to join the Skeptics society, openly admitted to myself that I was an atheist and not an agnostic, and so on.

    I still cannot understand why critical thinking and the deeper meaning of science isn't discussed more at school (and university). Like Dan says, just half an hour would be enough to plant some seeds of critical thinking in many young minds. I spent a lot of time studying different scientific methods at university, but never did anyone discuss The Scientific Method and what it really means. Weird.

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