How I became an Atheist in Pakistan

Pakistani Muslim students attend a religious madrassa, or school, to learn the Quran, in Karachi, Pakistan, Wednesday, March 4, 2015. Religious schools in Pakistan, most of them in mosques, are the only source of education for thousands of children. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)
The Badshahi Mosque in Lahore at dusk.

 

This story is being posted on behalf of a member of the AAPN community. Our friend Adeel.

I am no different from anyone around me. Being born in a Muslim family I was no different from every other Muslim baby. When I was born my parents felt that I was blessing of Allah forgetting that in fact it was completely their effort. The first words I ever heard were “Azzan”, which is said in my right ear and ” Aqamat” which was said in my left. Being the first boy of the family I got a lot of love and attention from my family. This included religious indoctrination. While growing up the first word I learned was “Allah”. Muslim parents love to hear “Allah” as the first word from their baby’s mouth. When I learned to speak, the first class I had was about the Koran. I was like every other kid, waking at 5:30 AM in the morning to go to the nearby “Madrassa” (Islamic School) before going to primary school. Even primary school stressed religious instruction.

The girls, 5 to 5 years old, were supposed to wear “hijab” as part of their training. I was taught to pray when I was 7. We learned the prayers through nursery rhymes. We also attended a mandatory class called Islamic Studies. This was where we were brained-washed with Islamic stories and so-called Islamic values. We were not to question our religion nor its concept of a God. As I was to find out, there is no space for question in religion. Like every other Muslim child I was indoctrinated with their concept of heaven, about how beautiful it is and about the many beautiful women I would get if I lived my life acting on the rules of Islam. Like every other kid I was told that only Muslims are going to heaven because God loves only Muslims and he created heaven only for Muslims. Like everyone else I was told to hate other religions. I was to feel proud for being a Muslim. I was told how important it is for girls to wear hijab so that no man can see them. I was conditioned so well to accept this that I started to force the women and girls in my family to wear the hijab. As a teenager I joined Islamic groups who travel from city to city to invite people to Islam. I grew the beard and I was happy that I was born a Muslim; imagining myself going to heaven and getting 72 virgins gave me great motivation to become even more devoted to my religion.

Boys read the Koran in a madrasa, or religious school, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in Kabul…Boys read the Koran in a madrasa, or religious school, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in Kabul July 15, 2013. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani (AFGHANISTAN – Tags: RELIGION)

This was all to change. It shocked me when I started to study other religions and I realized that every religion has the concept of heaven and hell, and every religion promises its followers to let them enter into heaven. I read that every religion tells its followers to hate other religions and that followers of every other religion are going to hell. This opened my eyes and really made me question my own beloved Islam. I began to see how all the Islamic sects spread hate against the other sects. The more I read the more the more I started to hate my own religion, to hate any religion. I tired of it all, though I didn’t lose my faith in God.

Then when I was 20 my grandfather had an attack of paralysis. I visited him in the hospital. That visit to the hospital was a game changer. I was walking through the childrens ward, thinking of my grandfather, when I heard some children crying in pain. This event really made me question my beliefs about God. I wondered how God could really exist if he could not help these children. After that visit I saw several accidents on the road. As I saw that they were all man-made accidents, it dawned on me that really God, too, is just a creation of man’s own mind. Later I began to see that this concept of a God is also something that is used to help rulers control the poor, for a few to exert power over the rest of mankind. I saw that religion is used to divide people and make them fight each other for personal gain and advantage.
So this is how I turned from being Suni Muslim to an atheist. I will never look back.

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The Illuminator Comic: Bob the believer!

I created this character called Bob the Believer (Believer Bob),  the quintessential religious, Bible thumping, fundamentalist  whack job.
Believer Bob tries unsuccessfully to stump Triangle Head every time.  You’ll notice that Bob totally rejects every scientific theory and favors Creationism at every turn. Cognitive Dissonance!
Enjoy! 🙂

Also on Instagram @the_illuminator_comic
http://www.theilluminatorcomic.com

What is The Illuminator Comic?
“The Illuminator”, is a character driven comic strip by Chris Pinto, that turns Religion, Politics and Conspiracy theory on it’s head.
The Protagonist, Triangle-head is an evil dude, with a soft heart. He is a member of the Illuminati. Join him on a quest to keep things real, while raising his three year old son Baltar, to someday lead the New World Order.
~ by Chris Pinto

The Illuminator Comic: A few decision trees.

Here are a couple of decision tree strips I did.

 

Also on Instagram @the_illuminator_comic
http://www.theilluminatorcomic.com

What is The Illuminator Comic?
“The Illuminator”, is a character driven comic strip by Chris Pinto, that turns Religion, Politics and Conspiracy theory on it’s head.
The Protagonist, Triangle-head is an evil dude, with a soft heart. He is a member of the Illuminati. Join him on a quest to keep things real, while raising his three year old son Baltar, to someday lead the New World Order.
~ by Chris Pinto

The Spectrum of Knowledge and Belief

The Spectrum of Knowledge and Belief

I have at times accepted the Agnostic Atheist label I did so in part as an assertion of the scientific principle of uncertainty (I was never indoctrinated and haven’t experienced the doubts I have heard from those who struggled from the grasp of such). So it was definitely not being doubtful, just trying to be scientific. Sounds good? nods,  but I also felt uncomfortable with the agnostic angle because as generally used  it implied doubt which I didn’t in any way feel. Now I  have come to think I was fundamentally missing the point and confusing the issue. The core problem comes from the definition of knowledge and belief.

So let’s look at a philosophical definition of knowledge as quite honestly when we are doing with this labelling game. We are dancing with philosophy. (Pragmatic types just left the room)

Defining Knowledge

Plato defined knowledge as a “Justified True Belief” 

This might be modelled thusly

circle_diagram3
Platonic Model of Knowledge

This brings us to the bit…

Knowledge and Belief
are not purely distinct things

In fact knowledge is just a specialized case where a claim meets standards of evidence sufficiently to match our acceptance as knowledge threshold. (we do not have any handle on plato’s truth not really so lets ignore that for now sigh)

Presenting them as different axis like they are  often done might be seen as rather deceptive.

No distinction

Perhaps we could argue they are different markers along a path of differing degrees of justification.

<insert image reflecting this model>

Justification aka Evidence.

We could define this as a range of evidence quality with markers showing where we decide that belief becomes knowledge  (and aside from errors generally there should have strong correlation with plato’s truth).

Standards of Evidence

What amount of evidence or lack there of (where evidence would reasonably be expected ) do you require to consider a belief to be knowledge?

This question is the core of that scale.  But it gets tricky  do you have different standards for different things well yes of course you do but are they appropriately  contextual like how the scientific axiom of  “Extreme assertions requiring extreme evidence”  as popularised by Carl Sagan  calls it. Or are those standards influenced by something else (like fear tactics embedded in the religious doctrines themselves or a desire to get along and not be in conflict with dominant religions).

There is also of course differences in evidence quality like subjective vs objective experience . (let’s just avoid Descartes anti-pragmatic it is all subjective hole for now).

Beyond that we come down to the nature of the claim…

Multitudes of Definitions
– Changing/Moving Goal Posts

One of the reasons we see where people assert they do not believe but they do not know (ie agnostic atheism) may be occurring because of the lack of precision in “the god claim” , but I think it is not just that there are a variety of claims ( for this reason I have a fondness for Ignosticism ).

As even focusing on what is supposedly a broadly speaking singular modern claim. you see serious changing definitions over time and those changes have a pattern that should itself be a clue about the nature of the claims.

It seems very apparent that the religious salesmen and apologists have been intentionally redefining their magic sky daddy premise and moving goal posts to remove expectation of evidence.  He was in the sky and liked the smell of burning flesh till humans were able to fly beyond the world, now he is some interdimensional out of time being. They aren’t gaining new knowledge they are refining a manipulative scam a con game. The con-men want you to give them freedom to sell their crap.

I personally won’t be buffaloed in to not calling it crap because of some extreme vague white washed deist possibility that simply put does not correspond at all to what the religions are actually selling.

Eteplirsen and the rise of patient participation in FDA drug approvals.

A long road traveled

debra-miller-at-fda-april-2016-1100x642Let me first preface this article with the admission that the FDA drug approval process is not, or anywhere near perfect.  Also, I do feel conflicted as DMD is a devastating disease with little to no treatment.  I do feel for the children, and their family, who are desperately searching for any treatment possible.  The recent decision to grant accelerated approval, although conditional, is worrying.  Have we entered the age of FDA drug approvals that are no longer decided on the quality of their research, but on the emotional appeal of the patients that may benefit from the drug’s approval?

Sarepta has gone through quite the battle to have their most high profile drug, Eteplirsen, approved for sale to patients.   But on April of this year, in front of a standing room only crowd of Eteplirsen supporters and DMD patients, the FDA drug advisory board denied approval to Sarepta’s wonder drug.  In a 7 to 3 vote, the panel advised that Sarepta had not met the FDA requirements for well controlled studies to demonstrate the drug’s efficacy.

A case study in small sample sizes and poor placebo control

The key data Sarepta had presented to the FDA board was a single study of 12 cohorts with DMD that was conducted over the course of a year.  The study did follow the gold standard double-blind placebo-controlled methodology, although 24 weeks in the placebo cohorts were randomized to drug.  Small sample sizes are obviously unavoidable when it comes to rare genetic disorders.  To put it in perspective, if the FDA had voted to approve Eteplirsen, it would have set a record for the least amount of clinical data of its efficacy in the history of FDA approvals.

Not only did this single study suffer from an extremely small sample size, it also showed marginal efficacy.  DMD treatments are verified, primarily, by a test called the 6MWT (6 Minute Walk Test).  During this trial two of the boys that received the lower dose of Eteplirsen lost the ability walk very quickly after being recruited into the trial.  The rest showed moderate (but statistically significant) improvement in the 6MWT compared to placebo.

Although the study showed statistically significant improvement in 6 of the cohorts, what does this tell us?  To me, it’s an indication that the drug could be effective in slowing down or halting DMD in young boys, the key word being could, but more study is warranted.  To, once again, put into perspective the situation the FDA was facing, A competitor, GlaxoSmithKline, which was developing a similar drug, did a randomized trial involving 186 boys, one third of whom were given a placebo.  That drug, now owned by BioMarin Pharmaceutical, did not prove effective in that study and failed to win FDA approval.

The FDA advisory board suggested to Sarepta to repeat the study but with adequate placebo controls and to present the data again for another evaluation.  But the company argued that it would be unethical and impractical to do so, since early hints of effectiveness meant that parents would no longer enroll their sons in a trial where they might not get the drug.

A paradigm shift in FDA approvals of new drugs

Even with the poorly controlled trial complete with its minuscule sample size, in September of this year the FDA granted accelerated approval to Sarepta to produce and administer its new drug.  This isn’t the same as full approval as it comes with contingencies where Sarepta still needs to show that the drug is effective.

On one hand this is amazing news for DMD sufferers as it gives them a glimmer of hope, but on the other hand the drug is astronomically expensive and has extremely limited proof of efficacy past placebo.  The treatment will cost in the neighborhood of $300,000 annually, with insurance companies picking up the tab, except for Anthem who already announced they would not cover the drug as they are not convinced of its efficacy past placebo.

“In summary, the clinical benefit of treatment for DMD with eteplirsen, including improved motor function, has not been demonstrated,” Anthem policy, posted Thursday on its web site, said. “Establishment of a clinical benefit is warranted in on-going clinical trials.”

With the accelerated approval, it is hard to argue that this may be the first time the FDA has relied more on the lobbying of patients, their family, and others rather than the science behind the medication.  Along with what may be the largest lobbying campaign for a drug approval in history, supporters of the drug recruited 109 members of congress to pen a letter to the FDA calling for its approval.  

What it all boils down to is this; Should people with obvious conflicts of interest and others who have absolutely no experience in clinical trials and drug approvals have any say in which drugs the FDA approves and those it rejects?  In my cynical and evidence driven mind, I think not.  The law is very clear, the FDA is mandated to only approve drugs with sufficient evidence of their efficacy past placebo and Sarepta has not shown that Eteplirsen accomplishes that.

Where are we now?

At this point in time, Sarepta has been cleared to begin treating patients with their drug.  But at the same time, they are obligated to provide the FDA with additional clinical data over the next few months. If this additional data is not placebo controlled, or even blinded, then does it even qualify for sufficient evidence?  Only time will tell if the FDA finally approves the drug once and for all, but if they do, it will be a paradigm shift in how drugs are approved.  That could be a good thing, but it could also mean a dramatic shift in the quality of drugs entering the market as the bar for clinical evidence has been lowered substantially as long as sufficient lobbying is performed.

While an open debate about what we, as tax payers and potential patients,  would like the FDA drug approval process to achieve, varying the standards applied based on need or emotional appeal is bad for patients. Under current regulation, Eteplirsen falls well below the bar for approval on the currently available data.  I do hope I am wrong.  I hope that Eteplirsen is a miracle drug and changes DMD sufferers lives forever.  I hope Sarepta is successful in obtaining the data they need to get the drug approved once and for all.  I don’t, however, like the direction the FDA drug approvals process is heading.

New Study Shows Chiropractic Is Ineffective For Migraines (Duh)

The search for a credible placebo

For far too long the research on chiropractic has had the same issue as research on acupuncture, a reliable placebo.  Without a credible placebo, studies become impossible to double-blind and very difficult to single-blind.  Often times the controls are pain medication or no treatment at all.  Many times the studies would show a clear false positive leading to the assumption that chiropractic is more effective than placebo.  However, a study just published in the European Journal of Neurology showed that not only does spinal manipulation not work in the treatment of migraines, it also showed a design which may improve future chiropractic studies.

Study Design

At a university hospital in Norway, a single-blinded randomized controlled trial was performed.  A sample size of 104 patients, while small, is sufficient for preliminary studies utilizing this new sham method.  The control group continued with their current treatment, the active group received chiropractic treatment for their migraines, and the placebo group received a new sham treatment consisting of spinal manipulation similar to a chiropractic treatment, but in a completely different area and utilizing different manipulation techniques.  The blinding was successful and in an exit poll 80% in both the active and placebo groups believed they had received chiropractic treatment.

Results

In all groups the severity and duration of the migraines was lessened, but that is to be expected as any treatment, even the act of participating in the study generally shows improvements.  In the end, all three groups experienced similar improvement.

For the first time, we have solid evidence that chiropractic treatments, at least those for migraines, have no efficacy past placebo.  This is obviously a result we had expected to see; although now, the study backs up that assumption.  Much like a recent review on acpuncture, it seems as if the sham chiropractic treatment may be as effective as the true treatment.  One interesting piece of information surfaced in that adverse effects were significantly more frequent in the chiropractic “active” group.

What does this mean?

Well, it means a few things.  It means that spinal manipulation (not just chiropractic, but the manipulation performed by osteopaths and physical therapists) does not show efficacy past placebo in controlled and successfully blinded studies for migraines.  It also marks the first occasion where researchers were successfully able to blind cohorts, which will hopefully open the door for further research debunking the most accepted pseudoscience in the world, spinal manipulation.

Get them before they think and they’ll be here for life.

Child indoctrination, the triumphant strategy to spread a religion

After a brief discussion on gay rights I said to a Catholic acquaintance of mine that if that form of bigotry in which they deny the same rights to a certain group of people is their humanist approach, then I was happy not to be part of said church anymore, to which she responded: “You are a member of the Church from the moment you are baptized, whether you like it or not.”

Her answer made me think about what that meant for their belief system, as it needs to be implanted before the person is capable of rational thinking, they have to get us before we have the faculty of critically analyzing their claims.

They unconsciously knew how hard they’d failed the moment they invented Limbo for unbaptized children, making their parents worried of the kids’ afterlives back when infant mortality rates were sky high, forcing them to get their offspring baptized, adding another number to their annals of saved souls/herd.

But don’t you worry, Limbo has been repealed by the previous Pope, just like that.

If you take a 12 year old kid that has never heard about the Easter Bunny and tell him or her that a rabbit comes a certain day of the Jewish calendar to spread decorated hen eggs or chocolate eggs, he would be skeptical of said claim, but if you tell this to a 4 year old child he or she may believe it for the next 8 or so years; so you better take them while they are young and indoctrinate with something that even adults believe, no matter how impossible it is to be true, before they develop a critical mind.

You can leave the Roman Catholic Church, you only need to fulfill the requirements in the ACTUS FORMALIS DEFECTIONIS
AB ECCLESIA CATHOLICA
which constitutes an act of apostasy, heresy, and schism, but is completely unnecessary unless you’re planning to move to Germany.

How do you know when an ideology is self-defeating?

  • If an ideology needs to be implanted in a mind that cannot comprehend its meaning, the ideology is self-defeating.
  • If an ideology needs to be imposed through the use of violence instead of rationality, the ideology is self-defeating.
  • If leaving the it is considered a crime by the same ideology, it is self-defeating.
  • If an ideology needs to be sustained through faith alone, without a basis on reality or feasible evidence, the ideology is self-defeating.
  • If indoctrination is the main way to convert people to it, denying critical thinking and punishing questioning, the ideology is self-defeating.
  • If apology needs to be taught in order for the people to defend it and rationalize it, the ideology is self-defeating.

The David Wolfe Formula to social media success

You probably have a contact among your Facebook friends that has shared some of Wolfe’s content, as some of it is quite interesting for people who don’t follow fan pages specialized in science and technology, it could be a post about a weather-proof bag, camping equipment made with top-notch technology, a quote, a motivational unfunded phrase with a false analogy as its premise or a way-too-good-to-be-true bag that makes marshmallows out of thin air.
These kind of posts are what make most of his social media posts, and this is not a simple coincidence, by making a seemingly trustworthy page people who don’t usually fact-check what they share get engaged with him and his content, which sooner or later will include some of his pseudoscientific nonsense that made him famous in skeptic circles a few years ago (which we will be referring to as core content), but, as most of his regular content seems to be true and interesting, people that discovered his page through the “other content” will end up accepting the core content without much questioning.
People tend to trust well composed videos and rich multimedia content that is both visually pleasing and easy to understand, that’s why many sites try to sum up studies in 1 minute videos with stock footage of semi-related things to the topic, that’s why David Wolfe keeps taking content from other creators while just adding his watermark.
Yet, convincing people that his content is worth sharing is not his only reason to keep publishing so many unrelated things, Facebook’s algorithm has been changed many times in the last few years, orienting it into a more profit-centered platform, showing a fanpage’s newest post to a fraction of its followers, asking the administrators of said page pay to get the whole exposure, reason enough to get as many people engaged as possible, because the more a person shares or interacts with a page, the more the algorithm will keep feed him/her with the page’s content.

Now it’s activity time, let’s check how well you’ve learned so far by doing the following activity to create your very own pseudoscientific Facebook fanpage, this is all you need:

  1. Videos taken from pages like Futurism with your watermark covering the original and credits removed.
  2. Quotes from famous and successful people.
  3. Poorly interpreted scientific studies that validate what you promote.
  4. Outrageous click-bait articles written by yourself about something that is trending. “How this crystal helps you to get more Pokémon per walked kilometer, the developers cannot believe how efficient this method is, hurry up before they patch it”.
  5. And finally, the post that gets you gullible people’s money, “Did you know that churros are shaped like a 1/11378 of the Earth’s silhouette? You can buy freshly baked non GMO organic churros in here”.

Whooping In Washington

KitsapPeninsulaAreaMap02
In Washington state, here in the United States, pertussis (whooping cough) caused nearly 200 campers to be sent home early after whooping cough prompted the YMCA of Greater Seattle to close the overnight camp on the Kitsap Peninsula. This is yet another dangerous example of the rejection of vaccine uptake. The rise of misinformation and alternative medicine has been increasing and the rejection of science-based modern medicine has been gaining momentum. As we know, vaccines work by stimulating our immune system to produce antibodies (substances produced by the body to fight disease) without actually infecting us with the disease. They trigger the immune system to produce its own antibodies, as though the body has been infected with a disease. There have been many factors leading to this decline: a lot of this has to do with celebrities endorsing fallacious claims; Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Oz, Jim Carrey, Jenny McCarthy, for example. All this was due to a former British Gastroenterologist named Andrew Wakfield and his fraudulent study published in the Lancet articles.

The best way to prevent pertussis (whooping cough) is to get vaccinated. There are vaccines for babies, children, preteens, teens, and adults. The childhood vaccine is called DTaP, and the pertussis booster vaccine for preteens, teens, and adults is called Tdap. Pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial disease. Initial symptoms are usually similar to those of the common cold with a runny nose, fever, and mild cough, followed by weeks of severe coughing fits. After a fit of coughing, a high-pitched whoop sound or gasp may occur as the person breathes in, and may last for 10 or more weeks, hence the phrase “100-day cough”. A person may cough so hard that they vomit, break ribs, or become very tired from the effort. Children less than one year old may have little or no cough and instead have periods where they do not breathe. Infection in newborns is particularly severe.

Pertussis is fatal in an estimated 1.6% of hospitalized US infants under one year of age. First-year infants are also more likely to develop complications, such as: pneumonia (20%), encephalopathy (0.3%), seizures (1%), failure to thrive, and death (1%) perhaps due to the ability of the bacterium to suppress the immune system. Pertussis can cause severe paroxysm-induced cerebral hypoxia, and 50% of infants admitted to hospital suffer apneas. Reported fatalities from pertussis in infants increased substantially from 1990 to 2010. There is no excuse for these kind of vaccine preventable diseases.

Sources:

http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/state/washington/article93698202.html

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pertussis

https://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/

Trust: Authority and Abuse of Power

Originally published on www.answers-in-reason.com Jan 2016

Trusting people is embedded in us from birth. We trust our parents to do everything for us. They are the definitive authority on EVERYTHING.

As we grow older we are taught to respect our elders and to listen to our teachers. Everyone seems to be in a category of “bigger & older = knows better” – and you accept it. Why wouldn’t you? These people have taught you everything you know; to speak, to read, to write, to eat… everything. You trust these people without question, or at least are quickly put down if you do question.

We make choices and follow people, from our parents to religious leaders, based on trust. This is actually quite an issue as to an extent as, at young age, everyone is gullible.

Gullible

“easily persuaded to believe something; credulous.”

We often trust those closest to us enough that we accept without question. As we get older we might start to question things, or learn “Truths” we have been told are not true.

One of the first experiences most in the western world have is learning that Santa Clause is not real. You might have started to not believe it on your own, had your parents tell you, or overheard other people speaking about it. This revelation that Santa Clause is not real can feel like your whole world has dropped away from you. You might start to question other things you know, but more often than not; people accept that it was just a bit of fun whilst they were young and everything else they have been told is still “True”.

Even if you are a cynic you can still be easily persuaded to believe something in the right circumstances.

For example:

Almost a decade ago my first son was born to me. It is amazing how it changes the world for you, and how you will change for your child too. It’s no lie that you will be more emotional, at least where your child is concerned. Unfortunately the way you feel can interfere with the way you think, even to the extent of you losing all rational thought.

We got my boy his vaccinations, but he had a bad reaction to one of them. It was only fever and vomiting for a couple of days but it scared the crap out of us.

His grandmother, from his mother side, used this opportunity to install fear of vaccinations in me. As a leading hypnotherapist and NLP practitioner there is no doubt she could have been manipulating me with persuasion techniques, but the key thing she did was play on my emotions.

Knowing that I quite like science, she spoke about a scientist who had been studying how they can affect the brain. Knowing I been told I had ADHD when I lived in america, she spoke of how a scientist hand linked Vaccination with ADHD. This was just a correlation but at the time I though “I’ve been vaccinated, I’ve got it..” not considering the millions who do not have ADHD but had their shots. She played the conspiracy card, I’d already bought in at this point but this just added fuel to the fire.  She gave me a few names which I researched and looked around at other articles and I found a wealth of information. The thing I forgot in this instance was to research the other side, in fact.. why would I? It would all be lies right?

By this point I had flaming hot belief. I couldn’t be reasoned with. My child was not getting any more poison in his veins!

Looking back I feel so guilty about how I essentially risked his life over an unfounded belief. I’ve forgiven myself, but not forgotten. Every time someone says something this pops up in my mind as a reminder to verify facts before thinking a certain way. The less I know about a topic, the more I should research!

Eventually I started noticing holes in her story. Suddenly it wasn’t ADHD, it was autism. I considered the stance on mercury, and found that there is more mercury in one tin of tuna than most people get in a life time of vaccinations. I consider that we all have small quantities of substances in our body that in large quantities would kill us but in the amount we have they are perfectly benine. Some even are beneficial. I consider that if we drink enough water it can kill us, but we need that for our every day survival. I wonder how a few foreign cells in our body can cause something as significant in our brain as autism.

I start researching. I brush up on vaccines. I find out that the whole autism thing had been debunked and the Doc in question had been banned from practicing medicine. I found that scientist thought it nearly impossible and there was a complete lack of evidence to support vaccines can change us in any way other than enabling us to build the antibody.

I learned about herd immunity. I discovered that not all immunisations were 100% effective, and considered; a condom isn’t 100% effective at preventing disease or seminal transmission but I would take 98% over 0% any day. I learned that some people were too weak to get vaccinations and require the help of those around them, because if they got ill they could die.

It took a while to convince his mother, largely as she was still concerned about his reaction last time, but we got those vaccinations. Better late than never. He was a bit older and we explained why. He was so brave, and gave the lady a cuddle after. She’d never had a child do that to her before. He genuinely got that she was doing what was best for him. That’s that childish trust again. In this instance it was in the right place but critical thinking also needs to be installed!

So yeah, I was very gullible. I put my trust in someone I respected and saw as an athoratitive figure. Someone I actually loved and saw as my second mother. someone who seemed so knowledgeable.

Persuasion

“The action or process of persuading someone or of being persuaded to do or believe something.”

You may think I am a total fool for what I describe above. I will admit to being foolish, but I learned from the experience. You are only a fool if you keep falling in to the same traps.

How was I persuaded? Let’s recap.

  • Trust: I respected her and took what she said to be true without thinking she may be wrong.
  • Fear: Played on emotions. “Damage to your baby” –  Wasn’t thinking straight.
  • Correlation: Related it to something that connected it to me: ADHD
  • Mistrust: conspiracy theory.
  • Confirmation Bias: Only looking at the point that 100% backed up my belief without considering anything else.

Pride

“consciousness of one’s own dignity.”

The hardest thing most people find to do is admitting when they are wrong. This is often due to their sense of pride or fear. How will friends picture them if they were wrong. It is hard enough admitting that you were the one that forgot to take the dog out which is why he messed on the floor, let alone admit that one of your beliefs you have been fighting for and has been molded in to part of you personality was erroneous.

This can keep people peddling the same belief, in fact with a renewed fire. On some level they must perceive that getting other people to believe in it will somehow strengthen their own.

Again, these people abuse their trust.

Correlation

“the process of establishing a relationship or connection between two or more things.”

I briefly touched on correlation in the gullible section. Correlation is a powerful tool that people use to build trust in what they are saying. But what does it really mean?

All it means is you link two things together. Whilst you could link drinking alcohol to having a hangover you also have the evidence of this. Some things that do correlate can lead you to the root cause. They are a great place to start an investigation but you can never take the correlation to be the cause without evidence to actually back it up. Correlation is not causation. Here is a funny little site that puts some great examples of correlation: http://www.tylervigen.com/spurious-correlations

Possibly one of the best linked is this one with a 99.7% correlation rate.

landing on space vs hanging

One of my favorites is this one linking the number of films Nicolas Cage has been in vs Number of people drowned in a pool. This only has a 66% correlation but it does make me giggle.

correlation trust nicolas cage

Neither of the above are actually linked, yet set on a graph in that way it looks like they could be. Graphs seem to make everything seem factual and logical, even in the face of a lack of both.

This is the same as the whole vaccinations causing autism or homosexuals being given rights to marry causing storms. Correlation is not causation.

Not wanting to know

Some people operate purely on a “My friend said” “My friend knows” level. Their trust is totally in someone else and they relay the bite size information they can remember/understand to peak other people’s interest.

People are so desperate to have everything they want handed to them. How many people have you worked with that wanted the promotion but wouldn’t put in any additional work themselves? Or those that won’t learn a new skill by researching and practicing.. no.. they want the company to send them on a course. Why learn for yourself when you can be spoonfed by someone else?

The same can be said for religion, anti-vaxxers, or any similar topic. They barely even want to know or understand the detail of the belief they are fighting for, let alone consider a different opinion. More than once I’ve heard, “I should let my friend explain it to you, she understands the science” or similar.

How can any rational person peddle something they don’t even understand?

Never Know?

Can we ever truly know the truth? Speaking generally, of course not. What we can rely on is evidence and rigorus investigation. You can either choose to get a degree and become a scientist in the field you are interested in, or you can trust things that 99%+ of scientists agree on. Most findings have plenty of articles you can read, all peer-reviewed and mostly objective. You should also make yourself aware of opposing articles. And research as best you can add validity to any claim.

The thing is with science, if anything is ever found to be wrong, they correct their findings. As technology improves so does our knowledge and understanding of ourselves improves. Could we one day find a better alternative to vaccinations? Maybe. At the moment they are the best we’ve got.

Is Faith Just Trust?

An interesting question I asked my self. “Self,” I said, “Is faith just trust?”
I pondered the question. Just, as in fair? Is it fair to have trust in something completely unknown and inconceivably bigger than you? I suppose if it makes you happy… but is it fair to impose that on other people?

Of course, that is not what I was asking myself at all. After blithering on to myself for about 20 minutes I returned to the original question and its true meaning. Is faith just (as in only) trust?

One definition of faith is exactly that: complete trust or confidence in someone or something. Another definition is: strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof. But that belief is based on trust. You are trusting that it is true.

One could argue that faith is trust minus evidence. If we think about trust vs faith in a religious sense the I would suggest just that. Faith is trust without any evidence. Trust is learned from experience.

Why do people have faith?

Trust. Do you ever wonder how christian parents seem to have christian babies? Or how Hindu parents have Hindu babies? Sure from time to time one leaves the flock but in general people are the religion they are born in to.

The parent’s belief becomes the child. They know no other side of the story. The threat of eternal punishment is often used to strike fear in the hearts of children. They mught not even question it because they fear that will land them in hell. Sometimes families reject children that reject their relgion. People attach emotions to their faith. Both fear and love. Communities are built round it. And they have their leaders who speak to God and act in his stead.

People in positions of trust persuade people in to their faith in very similar ways to the previous story.

  • Trust: Authoritative figures, parents/priest/vicar/etc
  • Emotions: Fear and Love. (in some instances hatred)
  • Confirmation Bias: The bible is true because it says its true in the bible. Only taking time to read/understand things that back up your belief.
  • Mistrust: Anyone telling you your faith is a lie is an agent of the devil! (Conspiricy!)
  • Pride: Can’t admit when wrong “On some level they must perceive that getting other people to believe in it will somehow strengthen their own”
  • Logic: Erroneous Abductive Logic

Never Know?

We’ll never know, at least until we are dead, in fact even then we might not know because the likely hood is; there is nothing.

Is it worth worrying about? If you live your life doing good things to be good, rather than just because you think it will get you into some paradise after you die, doesn’t that make you a better person? Doing good, “just ‘cos”.

Faith in the face of evidence leaves us with people that think the world is flat and only 6000 years old.

We may never know if there is a God or not, all we have got is evidence. Most people don’t get to choose their religion, they are thrust in to it. However for a critical thinker do you think atheism is a choice?

Who should you trust?

“…when all their words turn to dust” – S. Payne

When it comes to someone making a claim, in all honesty; no one. Not even yourself. You may think you know, but you don’t know you know till you verify it.  I would try to surround yourself with people who think critically. Anyone can be drawn off at any time, but with enough critical thinkers around you there should always be enough fresh thought to keep you going.

Whilst you may grow to trust in many people, always stay objective until you have fully researched something yourself. Make objective decisions based on evidence, logic, and reason.

 

David Ian Livingtone