Rationalism vs. Irrationalism: Why I Will Not Apologize For Questioning Your Faith

Welcome Pharyngula-ites!  Thanks PZ for the mention.

Why am I so hard on religious people?

Why keep harping on this subject?

It is a fair question.  After all, I have family members who are religious.  I have friends who believe in God and are participants in practices of faith.  Most of the world believes in a god (and a congressional majority of those people would call that god, ‘God’).  I am certainly not doing myself any favors by being so adamantly anti-religious.  Lord knows that being an out and proud atheist is not the kind of proclamation that immediately wins friends and influences people.

If my goal is to de-convert the world from their “idiotic” beliefs (to quote myself), my cause would certainly be helped by a little more tact and decorum.

Besides, I can’t prove there is no god.  I cannot, by the scientific, logical method that I esteem so greatly, eliminate the possibility of there being a god.  To go further, I cannot prove that the god is not God (Yahweh, Jesus, Allah, etc.).  If we were to go even further, I cannot prove that there is no soul, or spirits, or ghosts, or thetans.  These are concepts that rest outside the realm of science, mainly because they are matters of the ‘supernatural’ (or, beyond nature) and science is the study of nature in its varied states.  As well, I cannot disprove these matters due to that troubling axiom of logic, “You cannot prove a negative.”  In other words, I (nor you) cannot prove that there is not a tiny, imperceptible teapot orbiting the sun.

Ignoring how cumbersome that last sentence was, we must all acknowledge that any one of us could come up with some completely ridiculous idea (the Flying Spaghetti Monster, for instance), and it would be impossible to disprove it with any serious attempt at logical, scientific or philosophical inquiry.  Religious people dismiss the FSM because it is so patently ludicrous, but they do not do so from any reason other than personal distaste.  There has never been a reasoned, intellectual dispute of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s claims, though I’m certain that if there ever was, the Church would have irrefutable rebuttals.

Okay, so it’s disrespectful to compare belief in God (or gods, or spirituality in whatever form you like) to the FSM, or to Santa Claus (just as equally difficult to disprove), or to deem religious beliefs ‘fairy tales’ or ‘myths.’  The reason it is disrespectful is not because Christianity, Islam, Scientology or any other accepted religion is more plausible than any of the other ‘ridiculous’ beliefs (I challenge a Christian or a Scientologist to put their beliefs/views up against those of the FSM if they really question it).  No, the reason it is disrespectful is because people actually believe in those religions, whereas, presumably, no one literally believes in a Flying Spaghetti Monster (though there are millions of people around the world who quite literally believe in Santa Claus; they just happen to be children).

So the argument for a gentler discussion of religion so far rests on this: People believe in religion.  Well, I already knew that and I didn’t care before.  I still don’t care.

Name me ten religions, and I’ll name you ten worldviews that absolutely conflict with each other.  At the core of those religions is a claim to Truth, a Truth that no other religion has.  Even Scientology, which claims to require no faith and proclaims openness to all people, would still ultimately clash with almost all religions (and those religions it did not clash with are the gnostic ones that it ‘borrows’ all its spirituality from).  Even if your religion doesn’t make a claim to exclusionary Truth, practically all the other ones do, which makes it a moot point.

(For the record, those people who say, “All religions are right, they all lead to God” are wrong.  Those people know nothing about religion, they just like the vagaries of being ‘spiritual’, which allows them to believe whatever they want whenever they want to.  I respect a suicidal nutjob who kills for his religion 100% more than the wishy-washy airhead; at least the nutjob knows what he believes.)

The fact that all religions conflict does not mean that all religions are wrong.  It just means that, at most, all religions but possibly one are correct.  But which one?

It is conceivable that Christianity is right, and all the other religions truly are the product of Satan’s lies.  Certainly, it is not something you can disprove.  Buddhism’s got some nice stuff in it, and it’s pretty peaceful.  Maybe we should root for that one.  Personally, if I was going to side with any religion, it would have to be one of those that emphasizes sex as a path to enlightenment.  I’ve always wanted to try that tantric stuff.

Okay, so I’ve made my point.  All religion makes the claim to revealed Truth, and there’s just no good scientific/intellectual way to parse out the one that’s really got it.  At the same time, acknowledging my inability to disprove any religion, let alone all of them, why can’t I just drop the whole topic?  I’m clearly not getting anywhere, and I’ve obviously not convinced anyone that their faith is idiotic (although, maybe I have?).

This gets back to the early point, where I suggested the following:

If my goal is to de-convert the world from their “idiotic” beliefs (to quote myself), my cause would certainly be helped by a little more tact and decorum.

That is not my goal.  I have absolutely no interest in turning the world into a planet of atheists.  South Park made a pretty good episode about a future where 3 different factions of atheists are fighting a war about… oh, just watch it (for free).  The point is, we humans will fight about anything, and I have no naive belief that if we all just stopped believing in God and became Secular Humanists we’d live in perfect utopia (though, I do think there would be less child molestations).

My goal is to change the way people think.  That is to say, my goal (and that of probably most outspoken atheists) is to get people to acknowledge the inconsistencies in the way we think and to work towards ferreting them out, exposing them to the light and eventually eliminating them.  The human brain, while capable of great feats, and clearly the finest product of Natural Selection, is still a fallible and easily corrupted tool.  The scientific method is our best upgrade to the Operating System that is our mind.  It eliminates or supersedes the bugs that would otherwise unhinge the reasoning process.  Those bugs are legion.

We are capable of creating false memories.
We are capable of remembering incorrectly.
We are capable of deceiving ourselves, allowing ourselves to be deceived or accepting two or more completely contradictory thoughts utilzing a series of mental gymnastics to help us seemingly resolve the inconsistencies.

The scientific method is vital.  While one mind can make horrendous mistakes, and even a group of minds can make the same or worse mistakes (look at the Holocaust or city riots), the scientific method eliminates personal bias, sidesteps agendas and ignores preferences.  Can the scientific method be hijacked for willing deception?  Well, the image of the method can be (using scientific terminology, quoting ‘statistics’), but the method itself remains steadfast.

People often object to my reverence for the scientific method, and in doing so they either point to the atrocities committed in the name of science (nuclear bombs, animal mutilations, etc.) or the limitations of the method (we can’t explain how or why the Big Bang happened).  First off, science is a tool for gaining knowledge.  How that knowledge is used is not of interest to science.  The same people who wish to defend religion’s indiscretions often seek to condemn science for the sins done in its name.  The only difference is, science makes no claim to moral authority, whereas religion does.  As far as the limitations of science, I will quote Kenneth Miller for probably the 100th time:

“Taking what is unknown, unexplained, or undiscovered today and claiming that it will remain forever beyond our understanding isn’t just poor logic – it’s a lousy bet, considering the rate at which science continues to advance.”

At one point, science couldn’t explain gravity, the solar system or even what it was we breathed.  300 years ago, the mysteries science could not answer were more numerous than the stars in the sky.  Now, we could write a computer program to estimate how many stars there are.

My detour through the scientific method serves a point:  I cherish rationality above all else.  And in most facets of your life, you do, too.  Religion is the big exception, and that’s the inconsistency I mentioned above.  Religion requires irrationality, except that it’s labeled ‘faith’ and it’s praised as a virtue.  Why is faith ‘irrational’?  Glad you asked:

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

That is the very definition of irrational.  We can quibble over whether being irrational is a bad or good thing, but there is no questioning that being certain of something we have no evidence for is irrational.

The closest thing anyone will ever have to ‘evidence’ for their faith is personal experience.  The experience of God (or the spirit world) can manifest itself in many ways, but all of those experiences share one thing in common:  They cannot be shared, duplicated or invoked at will.  For this reason, your personal experience as a Christian/Muslim/Scientologist is just that: personal.  And like all personal experiences, a reasonable, self-aware person should be willing to acknowledge that the memory of and reaction to it might be erroneous.

If you have reached the age of adulthood and not realized that memories are not always accurate, then you probably still believe in Santa Claus.

Again, none of this is specifically an argument against your personal faith, or against a general belief in god.  I am not trying to dissuade you of your faith.  I am only trying to get you to embrace the rational over the irrational.

In 50 years, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster may be a true religion.  Don’t laugh, it’s not completely unreasonable.  Religions have been birthed out of dumber seeds.  If the inherent joke behind FSM is forgotten and it is accepted as a legitimate religion in the latter half of the 21st century, will you expect me to respect it?  Well, you of today would not.  But your future counterpart would.  And this is why I refuse to ‘respect’ any religions, no matter how or when they began.  A religion is merely a cult with tax breaks.

We know the origins of Mormonism, Scientology, the Seventh-Day Adventist.  We can trace them back to a specific person!  Christianity and Islam, the ‘old’ religions (though, still young if compared to many) have less easily traceable origins, but we can reasonably see how they might have formed and propagated without any divine assistance.  Sure, maybe one of those beliefs is the true one, but what proof do you have for it?  Only your personal experience (fallible) and your faith (irrational).

I treat all irrational beliefs the same way:  I dismiss them.  This is not being intolerant or judgmental.  This is merely being consistent.  In the same way you reject the claims of the clinically insane that claim they are Jesus or Elvis (claims you cannot disprove), I reject your ‘Revelation’ on the grounds that claims demand evidence (and extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence).

If all science, reason and human existence tells me one thing (there is no God), and your personal experience claims another, I’m sorry, but you aren’t getting the benefit of the doubt.  That is not arrogance, that is basic logic.  And you are no different from me in that respect.  The person who believes whatever he is told by whomever he meets will be the victim of countless scams.  It’s not skepticism to demand evidence, it’s common sense.

If you allow for religious belief in your life, you could possibly have found the Answer.  You might be in possession of a Truth hidden from me (and millions of others).  However, in the pursuit of religious belief, you must admit intellectual inconsistency.  You demand rational inquiry in most aspects of your life.  You quote statistics about tax rates or medical care when discussing politics.  You intellectually analyze movies, books, music or poems when discussing their merits.  You dismiss Op-Ed pieces because they lack data to back up their point of view (assuming they are in disagreement with your own views).

But when it comes to religion, you staunchly, proudly declare, “I will believe in what I can have no evidence for, and I will do it even if evidence to the contrary presents itself.”

I, for one, cannot see how that kind of faith can be considered virtuous.  More like, dangerous.

Who knows, maybe your stab in the dark will win you the big prize.  If so, we can agree, faith works for you because [fill-in-your-religion] is the true one, but all those other people are sadly just being irrational.

53 thoughts on “Rationalism vs. Irrationalism: Why I Will Not Apologize For Questioning Your Faith

  1. I demand rational inquiry into everything I believe in; I could quote demonstrable statistics; I intellectually analyze all I experience; and I do dismiss anything that doesn’t have data to back it up. I don’t believe that I am demonstrating intellectual inconsistency when it comes to my religion, but it’s kind of hard to demonstrate to someone that you aren’t speaking from inside the box of your biased viewpoint, and I suppose in a lot of fundamental ways you aren’t.
    I think a religion should be more show than tell – the same way a story should be; they’re not convincing the other way round. I always had a problem with the Christian idea that I should believe because someone was telling me I had to. It never held up to rigorous questioning and asking questions was actually dissuaded.
    The thing is you still hit that whole problem which Thomas Paine describes when he says: “Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication — after this, it is only an account of something which that person says was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to believe it, it cannot be incumbent on me to believe it in the same manner; for it was not a revelation made to me, and I have only his word for it that it was made to him.”

    In Scientology there is the idea that ‘What you know is what you know’; (an idea outlined in an article called ‘Personal Integrity’ which is readily available as part of ‘What Is Scientology.’) I feel that the things I am learning are driven by me; the discoveries I have made are made by me, not given to me. The thing is, how do you convince someone you aren’t brainwashed? Dissent from the party line? Ability to talk about problems within your religion? Ok, well going by the idea of ‘what you know is what you know’, thus far I have seen good things. Who else can I talk for? Me and only me.

    Interrogate inconsistency, get rid of what doesn’t work. I’m still asking exactly the same questions I did when I started studying philosophy. I’m not intending to stop asking questions. Does any of what I say constitute proof of my rightness? No, course it doesn’t. But I know I am not brainwashed; know I am not being irrational, illogical, or inconsistent.

    • What demonstrative statistics are you referring to that support Scientology’s teachings? I am not talking about the feel good, general, be a better person sort of teachings. I’m talking about the spiritual/supernatural (using it in the scientific sense) aspects of the religion, the aspects that actually make it a religion and not just a self-help book.
      I read through the Scientology website, I followed the links I could find from their site, and then I also read up on it from outside sources. The philosophy that your religion teaches is just a mix of Freudian Psychology (ironically) and Gnostic beliefs in the spiritual world. There is nothing I’ve found that was truly original or new in the general philosophical teachings.
      What distinguishes Scientology then, as a religion, is the notion of Thetans and the idea of auditing as a way of healing (though, really, auditing appears to be psychotherapy crossed with new age mysticism; but I haven’t been through a session, so I can’t say for certain).

      When you say you are not being inconsistent, you are presumably saying that you have evidence of Scientology’s claims. But the only evidence you could possibly have is (presumably) personal happiness and self-fulfillment since joining that religion. But that is no more proof of your religion’s validity than it is for those who find happiness/fulfillment in Christianity, Buddhism, Daily Masturbation or Star Wars. In selecting Scientology, you have dismissed all other religions. I’m asking you, what criteria of rational inquiry did Scientology pass that all other religions did not? I am genuinely asking you that. I would like an answer.

      The Thomas Paine quote seems to get to the root of the problem with religion: It’s based on personal revelation (or more often, someone else’s personal revelation being passed on to others). The thing is, the scientific revolution solved that problem by allowing us to find knowledge with a method that did not include ‘revelations’ or grand hypothetical philosophies. It goes out, makes a hypothesis, tests that hypothesis and establishes the basis for knowable facts and theories.

      Philosophy, to me, was a nice piece of scaffolding that helped us build Science. Now we have built Science, a towering, beautiful skyscraper, but instead of pulling down the scaffolding, we keep it up and keep climbing up it to try to get to truth, when Science has super fast elevators inside meant to take us to the right floor.

      • Scientology’s ideas were built from the ground up through painstaking research into the mind, developing a workable technology with Dianetics, and then the further development of Scientology technology, that works in each case to alleviate pain and allow people to achieve a better state of being. This is all recorded in the basic books and lectures which are readily available.
        The demonstrative statistics are comprised of the Oxford Capacity Analysis and IQ tests, and LRH also used a whole battery of other measurements as well. The thing is the betterment part of the religion goes hand in hand with the spiritual part of the religion – it is an applied religious philosophy, and the self-help aspect which you refer to works in tandem with the spiritual aspect.
        As well as receiving auditing, I am also a trained auditor so I have reality on what can be done for others as well and have seen the things that can be done.
        So the criteria of rational inquiry it has passed for me is that I know it to have worked for myself and others and I daily witness what it does for people.
        The thing is, this could basically go round and round with me offering up examples of how it works and it wouldn’t convince you because we once again get to that whole Thomas Paine idea of personal revelation.
        I studied psychology, I studied science (I have a pretty good grip on quantum physics and superstring theory) and some aspects of science sit perfectly well within the structure of what I am learning, some don’t. The things which don’t abide tend to be things that wouldn’t abide even if I weren’t a Scientologist. I haven’t abandoned logic, in fact, I feel that I have embraced it even more.
        Maybe you should go and get a Dianetics session, but go with the thought that ‘What you know is what you know’ and if you don’t find anything in it and still see no value in anything it has to offer then that’s fair enough.

      • The auditing sessions are of no interest to me because a willing mind who is looking for help will receive help in anything they want. It’s called the placebo effect.

        I am interested in the ‘painstaking research’ the ‘Oxford Capacity Test’ (why is it called the Oxford test when it has nothing to do with Oxford; kind of deceptive, right?) and the ‘Scientology Technology’. The testing and research that went into all of this, was it peer reviewed? You also realize that personality tests and IQ tests aren’t rigorous scientific tests, they’re just simplified psychological exams, no matter how many questions are on them. That isn’t ‘research’ of the mind.
        If the background information you speak of is online, I’ll track it down. Again, I’m not interested in how many people have felt better after an auditing session. How many people have felt better after AA? After converting to Christianity? After seeing a shrink (something your religion frowns upon; or at least, Psychology)? You have maybe a 100 case studies of people feeling better after someone spent an hour or 20 days (however long it takes) talking to and about them. Well, what do you expect? Most people would feel great if someone, anyone paid that much attention to them. We’re weak humans.

        I’m interested in the hard science. Send me links, if you have them.

        As far as ‘understanding’ String Theory, I’m guessing that no you don’t, because even the researchers in String Theory don’t fully understand it. It’s a complex, ever changing theory that is constantly being revised and has been attacked for that very reason.
        Saying you have a ‘pretty good grip’ on a science that takes people a decade of schooling to learn seems a bit disingenuous. I’ve read up on the stuff, too, but I will admit that it’s a field beyond my study. Not to mention that Quantum Physics is a field of study that remains largely outside the practical world. Much of it is only hypothetical, and when you get into the less testable areas of it, you get into the areas that can easily be misinterpreted to support any belief (Creationists do this all the time).

        Again, I want the science. Statistics aren’t science, they’re merely showing correlation, not causation. I want to see the studies where Dianetics was tested against Psychology and a base subject, by blind researchers, a study that was then peer reviewed.
        L Ron Hubbard’s word that he worked really hard on the stuff doesn’t fly for me.

      • Worth reading:

        (not that it will matter, as clearly any criticism of Scientology is Media bias.)

      • OK, well, placebo effect doesn’t explain the way auditing works, and I think you may have a misunderstanding of the whole process, and also an obvious unwillingness to test any of your preconceptions about it.
        I don’t believe it’s intentionally deceptive calling it the Oxford Capacity Analysis, and the name doesn’t negate the worth of the test. And yes, the tech was peer reviewed – it was looked at by professionals in the psychological field and has been employed by some of them too. The research is extensive but I’m not sure where it is online – you should be able to find the books in any good libraries though. The source materials, the journey traveled to get to the point where the establishment of something that worked – it is all there.
        Regarding my understanding of string theory, quantum entanglement, whatever elements of physics I claim to understand, you’re perfectly entitled to doubt me, as you are entitled to doubt anything I say. ‘A pretty good grip’ as disingenuous? Yeah, maybe, but you are making a hell of a lot of assumptions about my learning and my degree of understanding.
        I have studied these things and I am satisfied I have a good understanding of these things. There are degrees to this of course – I am not at the cutting edge of theoretical physics and have only read what is publicly available.
        You mentioned demonstrable statistics and then discard them. So, science, and here I’m looking at wikipedia, is defined as:

        Science (from the Latin scientia, meaning “knowledge”) is, in its broadest sense, any systematic knowledge-base or prescriptive practice that is capable of resulting in a correct prediction, or reliably-predictable type of outcome. In this sense, science may refer to a highly skilled technique, technology, or practice, from which a good deal of randomness in outcome has been removed.[1]

        Dianetics and Scientology processes fit that description.

        It also satisfies this definition of scientific method:

        Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.[1] A scientific method consists of the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.[2]

        Does this convince? I don’t know if I can. But how long can we dance around this? Forever. And back to Thomas Paine again, or not, if you actually go look at the data, go and experience the working of the technology.

      • the OCA article on wikipedia wouldn’t constitute media bias in and of itself but if you check out most of the links they don’t link to anything positive about Scientology, which isn’t a great thing for wikipedia which aims to maintain impartiality.

        a balanced view might be more acceptable but this article isn’t that.

        if something works, works more than once, demonstrates graphable results, and can be applied, does that prove its worth as a tool? one would think so. or am i misguided in believing that effectiveness as a tool makes something a good tool?

        psychologists use their own personality tests, their own IQ tests, which are based on similar precepts. the OCA is used because it works – if it didn’t work it wouldn’t still be in use. i can attest to its accuracy, but i’m starting to feel like i’m pissing in the wind.

      • So you believe that the universe is trillions of years old?
        You believe it began with Incident One which involved a cherub, a chariot and some loud snaps?
        You believe in the Gorilla Goals and the Hoipolloi?
        You believe that everything we believe is an R6 implant?
        That the Fifth and Fourth invader forces are on Mars, Venus, in the Pyrenees and the Mountains of the Moon in Africa?
        That our solar system is actually called “Space Station 33”?

        This is the unintentional hilarity Hubbard spewed during just one of his batshit crazy, rambling lectures. He made all this crap up. The lot of if. Dianetics is a rehash of Freud and Buddhism. The Oxford Capacity test has nothing to do with Oxford. The reason Scientology is a religion is so the FDA wouldn’t shut his quackery down.

        To quote Richard Feynman: “The first principal is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”
        To quote L. Ron Hubbard: “Space is wild!”

  2. In dealing with a persons beliefs (religious, political, what have you) you must take into consideration that what you are dealing with is an agreement by that person to a particular lifestyle or an applicable set of moral or ethical codes the person chooses to live his life by out of a want to be a better, if not more enlightened person. that being said, what you are attacking is not their faith in a divine being or a spaghetti monster, you are attacking a persons will to be a good person, or to be more enlightened. There are practical, provable applications of many of these moral or ethical codes that aren’t even the slightest bit impinging and can be proven as workable to keep a person from getting into a heap of trouble. Take the 10 commandments. Are these all not logical codes to live by? I suppose a little agreement on why it’s a bad idea to kill or steal or fuck your neighbors wife might make it a little easier to understand why someone might want to live by those rules. I can understand that the threat of fire and brimstone might be a little hard to grasp, but the reality is, if you kill someone, you’ll probably go to jail, and that might screw up some of your goals and plans (especially any travel plans)and even if you don’t get caught, you’ll be paranoid from there on out, or worse, someone might try to kill you back. I’ll leave it to your imagination what all could come out of screwing your neighbors wife.

    Science is a very important part of our existence, and though it can explain many of the reasons why a person should or should not do certain things, it generally does not deal with handling that aspect of life and when some “sciences” try to deal with handling actual life, they just end up suppressing it. There are still many things to be discovered in the realm of science, that leave us with something like that of faith, which is called “theory.” Theory is blind faith for the scientist. Faith is a theory for a religious person. They are the same beast.

    I advise if one is going to speak about certain religions, one should do as one would speaking about certain sciences and that is to study them. Study them at the source and if you find no workable, usable data, then you should dismiss it. But to say that you understand and dismiss something that you have not engaged in a study of, would be like saying that you dismiss the idea that sugar is sweet because you don’t want to eat it.

    Just because you haven’t seen something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, it just means you don’t have any reality on it. I have a friend who had never seen a slug in all of her 20 years of life. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any and it also doesn’t mean that I would try to convince her to believe that they exist without showing her one.

    The reason why “faith” is a personal experience is the same reason why getting high or masturbating or eating a steak or moving to 10 cities in 10 years is a personal experience. You can try to share it with others all you want, but it ultimately comes down to your reaction to it or it’s effect on you (or your effect on it) that makes it an experience at all.

    I did want to revisit a quote that you included:

    Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

    I don’t think anyone of any faith has interpreted this correctly. I am not sure what the universal misunderstood word is in the sentence, but it is asking you to be certain of what you don’t see. Which means that if you don’t see something, you should be certain of it. (the definition of certain being resolved) In other words, when something is not there, you should be resolved that it isn’t.

    Now, people who join religions under the false notion that some guy died to take responsibility for all the stupid degrading shit that they have done and have yet to do are lazy, irresponsible assholes who feel so guilty about their assholiness that they need someone to forgive them it as a last ditch effort because no real person in their life is going to and if they think they got the man on their side it might keep them from blowing their fucking brains out, but eventually, they’ll blow their brains out in one way or another. Most of them leave the church pretty quickly to drown their sins in alcohol or pot or prozac so that they don’t even have to deal with the responsibility of feeling that fucking useless. It’s still suicide, just slower more degrading process.

    Anywho. That’s my two cents. Good post. Very thought provoking

  3. I’m going to address your points paragraph by paragraph.
    First off, the Ten Commandments. Really, you think all 10 of those are logical? Don’t kill, don’t lie, don’t steal, okay, those three are logical ethical rules in the Kantian sense. After that, though, they get less so. Don’t commit adultery, don’t covet. Okay, those are still reasonable I guess, though not inherently logical (Why can’t I covet, it’s just my feelings?)
    Honor your father and mother? Well, that’s nice, but I can think of far greater rules to follow (or just a general rule of “Be nice to everyone”) that would be more useful.
    But have you actually read the 10 Commandments? You do realize the first 4 are anything but logical, and that they only have meaning if you accept that Yahweh is literally God. Otherwise, they’re complete bollocks.
    Go to youtube and type in ‘Ten Commandments’ and ‘Vanity Fair’ for a far more logical list of 10 commandments.

    I’m not sure what you mean about science suppressing life? I can’t address this paragraph because I honestly don’t get it. Examples.
    (I will say this, though: You sound like a Creationist in this paragraph, saying ‘theories’ are faith. Apparently you don’t understand what a scientific theory is, which makes me kind of sad, because I always assumed you had read up on that subject. It takes no more faith to accept a scientific theory than it does to accept that the Earth goes around the Sun – which is a scientific theory.)

    I dismiss all religions for their claim to knowledge about the supernatural (again, the scientific sense of the word, as in, beyond nature). I don’t have time to study all 10,000 religions and dismiss them all one at a time (and nor do you, yet still you have dismissed 9,999 of them). However, I can quite freely dismiss any claims to supernatural knowledge until someone proves to me their is a supernatural world. Religion is so ingrained us, we seem to forget that the Supernatural isn’t a forgone conclusion. What evidence do you have of it?

    You’re right, just because I haven’t seen it doesn’t mean it isn’t real. But, in your example of the girl who hadn’t seen a slug, you could have shown her a slug to make her believe. I’m asking you, show me the slug.

    Your faith as personal experience point is, frankly, rubbish. No one else can experience my exact 10 cities in 10 years project, but they can read about it, and I can show them pictures and I can give proof that I actually did it (with receipts if they need). Faith has nothing but your word. There is no evidence of faith, besides, at best, circumstantial evidence, like, for instance, “I prayed for rain and then it rained a day later.” Any intelligent person will demand a bit more proof than that.
    I’m demanding that proof your faith claims. The same proof you could demand of my 10 Cities project, proof I could provide.

    In the end, I find it funny how much you shit on Christianity in that last paragraph. Any Christian reading that paragraph would be offended and disgusted by the way you denigrate both them and their faith. This sentence for instance:
    “Most of them leave the church pretty quickly to drown their sins in alcohol or pot or prozac so that they don’t even have to deal with the responsibility of feeling that fucking useless.”
    I actually don’t know any Christians who have done this (which doesn’t mean they don’t exist).

    For someone who wants me to show more tolerance of your faith and beliefs, you sure seem to be intolerant of Christianity.

    This is the inconsistency I speak of.

    I am consistently intolerant of all religions. I don’t think religions are stupid and useless because of the people who believe in them (who are an equal mix of great people and assholes), I know religions are stupid and useless because they all make claims they cannot support.

    • You’re right i have been a bit jaded with some of the christians that i’ve come across, others not so much.

      I shouldn’t generalize.

      I probably shouldn’t argue this

  4. “A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

  5. Just a little bit on the wiki article of the OCA – you should note that Wiki is an unacceptable reference resource according to all universities in the US, so using a Wiki article as a reference point is probably not the best resource. Just to point out on the OCA and the Standard IQ test, there are measurable improvements that can be seen before and after processing. So regardless of whether you believe that the OCA is a good measurement, or if you think that the standard IQ test is a bunch of bollocks – it is still used to measure and beyond what the APA will tell you, a persons IQ can improve and it can be improved with Dianetic processing.

  6. I’d be interested in you explaining how auditing works, in your words. I’ve read up on it, but again, maybe I’ve only read unfair, biased explanations of it.
    From the words of an ‘auditor’, what does auditing entail?

    As far as the OCA, the question that remains is, what is the improvement? If you’re the person who creates a test and you’re the one who determines how well a person performs on a test, isn’t it pretty easy for you to say, “Oh, you didn’t do well on this test, but after you take our classes (which cost a little money), you should do better.” Then, “What do you know, you’ve taken our classes and you did better on the OCA.”

    That is what the criticism of the test boils down to, and it is the responsibility of those who administer the test to show the validity of it through peer review.

    (As far as Wikipedia: While you are right, Wendy, that one should use the site judiciously, that does not discredit the information. The particularly article I linked to was well-sourced. That it was negative does not inherently mean it is wrong.)

    Again, I need to see the evidence of the OCA being vetted by non-Scientology scientists.

    “the OCA is used because it works – if it didn’t work it wouldn’t still be in use” (this is the mark of a religious statement: circular reasoning.)

    I’m sorry if you feel frustrated trying to convince me, but really, what more can you expect? I am skeptical, and all you’ve offered so far are assurances that the OCA/Auditing/Dianetics have been peer reviewed and proven to work and that Scientology is ‘scientific’, but no proof. Your word (as a biased Scientologist) is not enough.

    Now, you can’t offer me any sites where I can see the information I want, so I guess I’ll have to go track it down myself. However, finding criticism of the Scientology methods (by scientific sources) has been relatively easy, which makes me less inclined to care. Extraordinary claims requires extraordinary evidence, and if Scientology isn’t willing to put their evidence online, that seems fishy to me.

    I found this page on your site, Paul: Touch Assist. That right there is one of the most inane things I’ve read. When you come down to it, the procedure is a matter of touching the body. And I know, you have personal experience of it working for you. But people have personal experience of witch doctor’s healing them with voodoo, and that doesn’t mean it’s true. Where is the medical evidence that Touch Assists works? Where are the peer reviewed studies where two people with broken legs were treated, one with normal medical practices and one with just touch assist, and it was shown that touch assist worked as well or better than setting the bone, etc.?

    If someone had a headache and they took aspirin and prayed for the headache to go away, and the headache went away, you’d scoff if they said, “Prayer works!” (At least, you should scoff.) Yet, that’s the same as this touch assist idea. I notice that the first step is “Administer any first aid that may be needed before you begin the assist.” In other words, do the medical stuff required, then do this touch assist thing, and miraculously you’ll be healed.

    I pick on this particularly area because it’s something you’ve personally upheld (on your blog) as a valid Scientology practice, yet it is clearly a dubious claim (dubious because I can find nothing even remotely resembling a medical study that supports it… but again, if you have one, send it my way).

    You have made reference to ‘graphable results’. I’d like to see those. I haven’t ‘discarded’ any ‘demonstrable statistics’, you just haven’t shown me any. You keep referencing that they’re out there, but I’ve yet to be shown any.

    Does it come down to, I have to go and do all the legwork? I can do that, but frankly, I’m not sure why I would. Do I have to personally discredit every claim that every religion makes? Shouldn’t it be up to the proponents of the religion to provide the proof for their claims?

    I’m standing by this firm rule: Personal revelations mean nothing. Your personal experience of something is invalid in a scientific discussion. I’m not saying personal experiences are wrong, I’m saying they can’t be used as proof in a scientific sense. Your personal experience can lead you to research what you experienced, and that research, once tested, re-tested, reviewed and peer reviewed then can validate your personal experience. But saying, “The OCA works because I took it and it worked” isn’t proof.

    At the very least, can you give me the names of a book or books that have the peer reviewed data. I’m not talking one of L Ron Hubbard’s books where he makes claims and then supports those claims with proof he provides. I’m talking about scientific journals/books that show me these graphs and data points you claim exist.

    And I will read it. If you go through this site.

    One last thing, more personal. How much money have you spent in order to become a member in good standing of the Church of Scientology? I’m not actually expecting you to tell me, I just want you to think about it. In an earlier comment, you used the word ‘brainwashed’ a couple of times, even though I never once used it (methinks you’ve been called that by other people since joining your religion). I do not think members of religions are brainwashed. That takes the responsibility out of their hands, it says, “Oh, they were just innocent people manipulated by someone evil.” People in religions make choices, and one of those choices is to stop questioning the claims of their religion.

    Has the time and money you’ve invested into Scientology caused a certain level of cognitive dissonance for you (a psychological term you should be familiar with)? Now that you’ve invested so much, do you really think you can train a critical, unbiased eye back on your own religion?

    Most people can’t.

    Alright, that’s what I’ve got to say. Unless you’re coming to me with names of books or (preferably) links to scientific studies, you really are just going to frustrate yourself more by trying to convince me with your word. If you can’t find the studies I’m looking for, will that arouse your suspicions?

  7. Alright, to clarify – I am not at all trying to convert you, so lighten up. Besides, if you are so strong in your convictions and impenetrable, then reading a book or a positive article or experiencing something different shouldn’t be enough to sway you, or convert you, or whatever you think is going to happen if you actually got a book about Dianetics or Scientology from the person who wrote it . . . or are you seriously that weak and easily controlled? I mean you can sit back and bark out all these regurgitated ideas that someone else had about something, and claim how horrible something might be based on some crap articles that you found on the internet, but you absolutely refuse to read anything from THE SOURCE of the material, which makes no sense – and you can’t rationalize that away – well, I guess you can, you keep doing it, but it doesn’t mean shit really, except that you cannot confront religion in any degree at any level.

    here is an article I found for you on the internet from an outside source since that is what you requested:


    This person claims to be a Scientologist for 40 years and she loves to answer questions about Scientology. I don’t know her, but she seems to answer questions very well and might be a little more experienced at answering your questions (or you can read her answers to others questions:


    Books I recommend when you build up the confront to be caught dead reading a book about something that’s taboo: Scientology, The Fundamentals of Thought. It’s $15.00 bucks and I can have it shipped to you with no shipping if you want.

    • It’s funny how people who are clearly mad tell me to ‘lighten up.’ I think I’ve been pretty blase throughout this discussion. I am not weak or easily controlled, but I appreciate the potshot.

      I’m not afraid of being ‘converted’. My reason for not wanting to read a book by L Ron Hubbard is because his books are, if I’m being extremely generous, philosophical works (having read excerpts here and there, my actual definition of them is far less generous). My point is, I don’t care if L Ron Hubbard wrote the books, or if it was Jesus Christ or Barack Obama or Charles Darwin. I’m only interested in whether or not the claims made by the books have been tested in a scientific manner, which requires peer reviewing.

      Both you and Paul have claimed adherence to science, yet you both seem to have forgotten (or never known) the basic requirement of any scientific theory. It must be able to survive scrutiny by an outside party. I don’t admire Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection because he was such an eloquent writer or because it justifies my non-belief in any form of God (which, on it’s own, it really doesn’t). I accept Natural Selection because the observable facts of our planet support it. And the predictions that the theory makes are consistently supported, whether it be by the fossil record, the specific habitation of particular species or any of a myriad of proofs for it. Beyond that, those studies that I accept are those that have not only fulfilled the predictions of the original theory, but they have been peer reviewed. I know you think I’m harping on that (my ‘soapbox’, perhaps), but without peer review, any random idea by any random person (PhD or not) can be deemed ‘scientific’ merely because it attempts to explain the world and makes predictions about the world, some of which come true.

      Let me give you a for instance. Let’s say I have a theory that it rains so much in the Spring because people have allergies, thus their eyes water and that puts more water in the atmosphere. I think you recognize that as a completely ludicrous theory. However, the basic fact that it rains a lot in the Spring is true, as is the fact that people suffer more from allergies in the Spring and people with allergies have watery eyes. All of these facts are true. Additionally, I can make a prediction. I predict that if I see a bunch of people sneezing with watery eyes, in the next week or so, it’s going to rain. And guess what, almost invariably (especially in April), I’ll be right.

      A person with a reasonable understanding of the way our ecosystem works can see that I’ve completely contorted the available facts. I’ve confused correlation with causation (the Great Error). However, as long as I don’t ever submit my theory for peer review (a process that includes a healthy level of skepticism which is willing to look at the holes in the theory), I can go around claiming that my theory is supported by experience.

      I appreciate the links you’ve sent me, but they are not what I’m asking for. The links you sent me merely explain the beliefs of Scientology. That’s interesting, but that doesn’t prove anything. I get that you believe in Scientology (and it’s no surprise that Scientologists have come up with nice answers for tough questions; Christianity has the same thing). What I am asking for is the true science behind it. And true science means that the claims being made by your religion need to have been peer reviewed: tested, examined, scrutinized. And if something has been truly peer reviewed, it should be readily available. The scientific pursuit only works when there is complete transparency. Which is why I find it so revealing that neither you, nor Paul (nor I in my own searches) have been able to unearth peer reviews in support of your beliefs.

      That is the danger in a religion that claims to have a scientific basis. Modern Christianity, in its attempts to borrow the language of science in support of some of its claims, has fallen into the same trap. They liberally sprinkle in things like String Theory or Genetics into their speaking points, not fully understanding any of it, and setting themselves up for scientific scrutiny. What ends up coming out is something akin to my Watery Eye Theory of Spring Showers™. It uses the language of science to try to give itself credibility, but ultimately it still isn’t science.

      I get that you’re becoming more and more upset by this conversation, and certainly, as I am questioning your belief system, I can understand why you’re frustrated with me. But, in my defense, I don’t think I’m asking anything unreasonable (I made it clear in my original post that I’m interested in science). It’s not that I’m saying I don’t want to hear anything from a person who believes in Scientology. I’m just saying that testimonials and the outlining of your belief system is not what I’m looking for (and they prove nothing). Evidence is what I seek. Keep in mind, that a good scientific review addresses other, contrary theories and shows why it is better for explaining phenomenon than the other theories. So, for instance, you can say, “People took the OCA before auditing and didn’t pass it, then they took it after auditing and passed it.” That’s one theory. My theory is, “The OCA is a bogus test, and people who take it are all told they fail it. Then those people are encouraged to pay a lot of money for auditing sessions, and then given the OCA again, which they invariably pass the second time.” Your theory supports your beliefs, my theory supports mine. Neither theory is inherently better until they have been scientifically tested and reviewed.

      I’m asking you: Where are the tests?

      • Lyttleton,

        It could also be mentioned that the more someone takes the same test (even the same type of test) the better one does on it. This is called Testing Bias and has been proven through research time and again (on of the best examples I can think of what a mentally impared person accused of a crime given an IQ test 6-7 times, each time doing better until he was no longer in the “impaired” category. At trial, his lawyer argued and won by saying that he has learned how to take the test but this didn’t mean that his IQ had miraculously changed.)

      • Yes, this is a good point. There are so many issues with the arguments that have been put forth in favor of Scientology that it was hard for me to address each and every one. Thankfully, I’ve had an influx of people available to fill in the gaps in my rebuttals.

        Thanks for reading, Allie.

    • I have read your SOURCE material. It’s crap. Most of it is rambling and grindingly dull and deliberately confusing. Some of Hubbard’s writings are masterpieces of unintended hilarity however. I point to A History of Man and exhibit A. Really, if you haven’t read this piece of unscientific garbage, you really owe it to yourself to read Hubbard at his loopiest.

      I have been on the cans, and can tell you it’s inductive hypnosis. Hours and hours of deprivation and repetition can, upon ending, create a sense of euphoria that is easily confused with enlightenment. This is how most Large Group Awarenss Trainings and cults induct people. Slowly. Step by step.

      You start with a communication course that is just plain logic and may actually be helpful. Then it’s a few of the basic, no-nonsense books. Then it’s a few more courses. Then it’s auditing and the first high. A high you’ll never recapture again. You spend more and more money to recapture that “win”. But it never happens. That’s how Scientology works . . . for Scientology.

    • “Books I recommend when you build up the confront to be caught dead reading a book about something that’s taboo”

      “build up the confront”

      Welcome to the wonderful world of Scientology, where the meanings of words are altered in ways that are intended to make it difficult for someone on the inside to converse with someone on the outside.

      You can screech about how peer-reviewed and scientific your garbage is all you want, but we know *for a fact* that LRH started the religion as a gag and did most of his ‘research’ while doing a lot of ‘greys’ and ‘pinks’ (as he called them). The guy was a drug-addled con man.

      Have you built up the confront to read the Xenu story, which the church has validated as actual doctrine by attempting to exert copyright over it in court? Or will you flunk and do a non-confront?

    • bark out all these regurgitated ideas that someone else had about something … build up the confront …

      How droll, as you regurgitate Hubbard’s stilted babble.

  8. I’ll admit, that I was initially frustrated, not with the argument at all, but because of a lack of my own ability to communicate something to you that seems so simple to me because I have a reality on it, and to try to force a reality onto someone who does not have that reality is actually a problem in communication.

    One of the basic things in Scientology is the ARC triangle of understanding. (I some times forget this vital data)


    There is another thing that I have learned and that is that if a person misunderstands a word in a subject he is studying he tends to not want to study it, and will refuse to study it.


    So I want to clear a word: Science.

    From Merriam Webster
    Main Entry: sci·ence
    Pronunciation: \ˈsī-ən(t)s\
    Function: noun
    Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin scientia, from scient-, sciens having knowledge, from present participle of scire to know; perhaps akin to Sanskrit chyati he cuts off, Latin scindere to split — more at shed
    Date: 14th century

    1 : the state of knowing : knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding
    2 a : a department of systematized knowledge as an object of study b : something (as a sport or technique) that may be studied or learned like systematized knowledge
    3 a : knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method b : such knowledge or such a system of knowledge concerned with the physical world and its phenomena : natural science
    4 : a system or method reconciling practical ends with scientific laws

    Okay, now I have cleared this word before – so I know what it means.

    But you aren’t talking about Science – you are talking about scientific method (http://teacher.pas.rochester.edu/PHY_LABS/AppendixE/AppendixE.html#Heading3)

    What Scientist hasn’t been discredited in their time? Newton? Einstein? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superseded_scientific_theories)

    Well maybe they weren’t that bright. Maybe Einstein did discover a Unified Field Theory after all and that’s when he blew this Popsicle stand for the real game?

    But let’s return to the Scientific Method, shall we?

    I. The scientific method has four steps

    1. Observation and description of a phenomenon or group of phenomena. (Okay, so this happens in Dianetics – He observes and describes the phenomena)

    2. Formulation of an hypothesis to explain the phenomena. In physics, the hypothesis often takes the form of a causal mechanism or a mathematical relation. (this is also something that happens in Dianetics)

    3. Use of the hypothesis to predict the existence of other phenomena, or to predict quantitatively the results of new observations. (yup, also in Dianetics)

    4. Performance of experimental tests of the predictions by several independent experimenters and properly performed experiments. (this happened when Dianetics was discovered, as well as happens everyday with every new auditor – they are independent experimenters performing the exact steps in the Dianetic Auditing Process and achieving the same results – how could one tell? Attend a Dianetic Seminar where groups of people all come from different places without prior knowledge of Dianetics and learn how to Use Dianetics and then start using it and they get rid of psychosomatic illness and anxieties etc, etc – and they are doing it themselves.)

    If the experiments bear out the hypothesis it may come to be regarded as a theory or law of nature (more on the concepts of hypothesis, model, theory and law below). If the experiments do not bear out the hypothesis, it must be rejected or modified. What is key in the description of the scientific method just given is the predictive power (the ability to get more out of the theory than you put in; see Barrow, 1991) of the hypothesis or theory, as tested by experiment. It is often said in science that theories can never be proved, only disproved. There is always the possibility that a new observation or a new experiment will conflict with a long-standing theory.

    (that last part there is the killer! theories cannot be proved? Well haven’t I been saying that one for years! Now I understand why you are not understanding – because in order to be a science – it must be able to be disproved – not proved!)

    Well, there you go – it’s a religion with workable and provable technology.

    • I appreciate the attempt to condescend to me on what science is, but I do understand the concept and that the scientific method is its own entity. I guess I made the mistake of assuming that based on the fact that I was asking for peer reviews over and over again, it would be clear I meant the scientific method.

      I’m going to just skip to where you describe how Dianetics utilizes the scientific method. As I explained earlier, making predictions and having those predictions come true is not the only hallmark of a scientifically valid theory.

      I must ask for you to be more specific about the phenomenon that Dianetics proves. Is it Thetans? Is it Touch Assists? Is it the idea that we are all gods? Or is it merely that Auditing cures psychological disorders?

      I’m asking because, you have said Dianetics fulfills the scientific method (with workable, provable technology), but you’ve been rather scarce on the details. Now, I don’t expect you to actually sit down and type out all the details. Rather, I would hope there would exist journal articles that outline the methods by which they tested this technology with convincing evidence. And perhaps these journal articles could have been, what’s the word… oh, right, reviewed by, let’s say, peers. Do you have any of those articles available, perchance?

      Here’s my issue. You obviously believe in Dianetics. That was established from day one. The problem isn’t a failure in communication, or a misunderstanding of words. It’s very basic, the problem is, you are making statements (‘the Dianetic Auditing Process gets rid of psychosomatic illnesses’), but you are providing no evidence for that assertion, other than your view that it’s true. I need more.

      You seem pretty convinced that Scientology is scientific, yet you seem to dance around the one thing that would give it (and your view) validity: Evidence. I’m not saying you’re lying when you say you know it works, I’m just saying, you’re a True Believer… so your word isn’t really good enough.

      As far as your final point about unproveable theories. In a technical sense, you are correct, a theory cannot be proven with 100% accuracy. However, theories can be so well supported that they can be considered by all standards fact. Natural Selection is at this stage.
      The way you describe a ‘theory’ sounds like the way Creationists describe it when they say evolution is “Just a theory.” In science, a theory is pretty well as good as fact.

      What are the theories that Dianetics asserts and proves?

      When you say Dianetics is a working scientific theory, do you just mean Auditing is a proven technique for healing problems, or do you mean all of the claims that Dianetics makes have been proven, verified and reviewed?

      this happened when Dianetics was discovered, as well as happens everyday with every new auditor – they are independent experimenters performing the exact steps in the Dianetic Auditing Process and achieving the same results – how could one tell? Attend a Dianetic Seminar where groups of people all come from different places without prior knowledge of Dianetics and learn how to Use Dianetics and then start using it and they get rid of psychosomatic illness and anxieties etc, etc – and they are doing it themselves.

      This paragraph is your claim. This is the extraordinary claim of which I am asking you to provide evidence. As I’ve explained before, just because a bunch of people – people obviously looking for a solution and thus susceptible to the suggestions of those who claim to have the answers – go to a meeting, go through the steps of auditing and then feel better doesn’t mean that the auditing is anything more than a psychological salve, just like getting prayed for or meditating.

      (A side note: It’s convenient that Scientology dismisses psychology (while borrowing most of its ideas from it), because then its claims of mental healing can’t be verified by an outside source.)

      Where is the documentation? For any of the claims.

      I am totally content to keep coming back here and asking you for the peer reviewed studies until you provide them.

      You can tell me to read Hubbard’s books. You can invite me to an Auditing session (um, no; unless you want to pay for all of it and then, if I am unaffected, accept that it isn’t a perfect system). You can recount your personal stories of healing and mental wellness.

      I will remain unimpressed.

      Why are those not good enough for me?

      Well, let’s try this Mad Lib:

      “You can tell me to read the Bible. You can invite me to a church service/revival meeting/exorcism. You can recount your personal stories of healing and redemption.”

      You are a member of a religion fighting hard to assert that your beliefs have support, but just like Christians, when it comes to anything more than anecdotal points and personal revelations, you have no evidence.

      You disagree? Are you offended by what I’ve said? Then prove me wrong. Provide the evidence.

    • Oh, come off it, clam!

      “I have a reality on it” = in my version of reality this word has been clearly defined
      “force a reality onto someone who does not have that reality” = force my version of reality onto someone else who disagrees
      “this vital data” = … information
      “I want to clear a word” = let’s play word games by refusing to continue discussion until I have quoted the dictionary definition of a word, because that’s how you “clear” a word – you attack it until you know the dictionary definition
      “this is also something that happens in Dianetics” = you hold onto the e-meter, grasping it as tightly or loosely as you need to so as to adjust its reading to the desired level, and we make shit up to describe what it means in our reality
      “this happened when Dianetics was discovered” = LRH told us that he did a shit-ton of research, but of course, he had no notes or anything to show that he really did, just a bunch of assertions about what he discovered, and I bought that hook line and sinker
      “it’s a religion with workable and provable technology” = only if you spends tens of thousands of dollars to have a “professional” spout bullshit at you, stare at you for hours on end, tell you to issue orders to a pencil and thank it for obeying when YOU carry them out, etc.

      Do you have any idea how much of Scientology’s internal doctrine has been leaked to the internet? You can’t get away with this batshit stuff anymore. We have auditing guides. We know what goes on. We know that it’s sheer madness. You have no secrets anymore. Time to blow!

    • Scientology – one of the most obscenely bullshit religions of all time. You have to be more deluded to believe that nonsense than even christianity.

  9. Oh, and from the website you posted, did you read this portion?

    III. Common Mistakes in Applying the Scientific Method

    As stated earlier, the scientific method attempts to minimize the influence of the scientist’s bias on the outcome of an experiment. That is, when testing an hypothesis or a theory, the scientist may have a preference for one outcome or another, and it is important that this preference not bias the results or their interpretation. The most fundamental error is to mistake the hypothesis for an explanation of a phenomenon, without performing experimental tests. Sometimes “common sense” and “logic” tempt us into believing that no test is needed. There are numerous examples of this, dating from the Greek philosophers to the present day.

    Another common mistake is to ignore or rule out data which do not support the hypothesis. Ideally, the experimenter is open to the possibility that the hypothesis is correct or incorrect. Sometimes, however, a scientist may have a strong belief that the hypothesis is true (or false), or feels internal or external pressure to get a specific result. In that case, there may be a psychological tendency to find “something wrong”, such as systematic effects, with data which do not support the scientist’s expectations, while data which do agree with those expectations may not be checked as carefully. The lesson is that all data must be handled in the same way.

    Another common mistake arises from the failure to estimate quantitatively systematic errors (and all errors). There are many examples of discoveries which were missed by experimenters whose data contained a new phenomenon, but who explained it away as a systematic background. Conversely, there are many examples of alleged “new discoveries” which later proved to be due to systematic errors not accounted for by the “discoverers.”

    In a field where there is active experimentation and open communication among members of the scientific community, the biases of individuals or groups may cancel out, because experimental tests are repeated by different scientists who may have different biases. In addition, different types of experimental setups have different sources of systematic errors. Over a period spanning a variety of experimental tests (usually at least several years), a consensus develops in the community as to which experimental results have stood the test of time.

    I think it’s fair to say that L Ron Hubbard, a man who was attempting to start a new religion, might have been biased in his efforts (as well as those who practice the religion), which is why I dismiss his word, and I want the verification of his theories by an outside source.

    I don’t think that’s being unreasonable.

  10. If we were to go even further, I cannot prove that there is no soul, or spirits, or ghosts, or thetans.

    Actually, you can hypothesize that if there were a soul, then observed reality would have certain characteristics. If there was a soul that 1. existed independently of the body and 2. controlled personality in some fashion, then lobotomies would not change your personality, strong magnetic fields would not change your morals, and Phineas Gage wouldn’t have turned into a foul-mouthed layabout.

    None of these are true, so the soul hypothesis is not supported by evidence.

    • I agree with you, actually. I more made the point for the ‘sake of argument’, attempting to go as broad as possible to encapsulate as much ‘spirituality’ as I could.

      I would say even the God Hypothesis is testable. It’s just that, god, the soul and other spiritual mumbo jumbo can be defined in so many ways that even if you do perform empirical tests, there will always be someone who will come up with a new definition to get around your findings.

  11. [quote]Not to mention that Quantum Physics is a field of study that remains largely outside the practical world. Much of it is only hypothetical, and when you get into the less testable areas of it, you get into the areas that can easily be misinterpreted to support any belief (Creationists do this all the time).[/quote]

    I’m going to have to take issue with this… quantum physics is neither outside the practical world nor hypothetical. I understand that it gets (mis)quoted to mean all sorts of strange things by mystics of all stripes, but you should also realize that devices whose design relies on quantum physics are used extensively to bring you this post…

    • You are right to take issue with it. Mostly because Quantum Physics is just not my field. I’ve done my due diligence to understand the basics and to get a grasp on as much of it as possible, but I still feel inadequate to discuss it on a deeper level. I did not mean to dismiss it.

      What I was referring to were those misquotes you mention, the people who take the complex ideas of Quantum Physics and then use them for their hypothetical ideas (usually, religious in nature), leaving behind the real world for the world of meaningless philosophy.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  12. Dianetics makes some assertions that can be shown to be false. It doesn’t actually work as advertised. I know this because at one point in the early 80s I was at the heart of a Dianetics revival in the C of S in Honolulu.

    I was a Dianetics auditor using the techniques exactly as described by L. Ron in the book. The C of S of Honolulu charged people 20/hr (sold in blocks of 12.5 hours minimum) for me to audit them. In addition I also ran a class once a week to teach other people how to do Dianetic auditing.

    I probably have a firmer grasp on both the theory and the practice of Dianetics than 99% of the current membership of Scientology. It is “old technology”… not used as anything but a method of attracting new people to the church.

    And I’m here to tell you it’s all bullshit… it doesn’t work as advertised.

    I had auditees that recalled pre-natal incidence, I had auditees that recalled past life experiences. At the time this seemed to confirm that L. Ron was right, but since then I have figured out what was actually happening.

    I was helping them create false memories… much like the psychologists who uncovered the satanic cult child abuse ring that then lead to prosecutions and convictions of people and later turned out to be completely untrue… and using pretty much the same methodology.

    Dianetics provides a theory… all physical or emotional pain experienced creates an engram. The engram is a perfect record of everything that was occurring at the time the pain was felt. Similar engrams are linked in chains. These engrams can affect your present moods and perception and even physical sensations. To get rid of these effects, you have to find the earliest engram on the chain and run it. That is have the auditee recall it over and over, recovering more detail each time, until the emotional “charge” associated is bled away. If the charge doesn’t go away it’s because you’re not at the earliest engram on the chain.

    So when I, as an auditor, told the auditee that there is an earlier similar incident and told them to go to that incident, they DID it… even though we were already at the very earliest memory they could recall (age 2 or 3 for most people). You see I had absolute certainty that the earlier incident existed and I spent hours practicing how to deliver those kinds of commands (the introductory “Communication Course” is actually mostly auditor training routines) with total certainty.

    So since the auditee was already in a “Dianetic trance”, had already forked out $250, had a problem they needed to solve and had confidence in my ability to help them, they would do as they were told and create these memories of prenatal experiences or past lives on demand.

    The truth is, there have been no actual controlled studies done on Dianetics. The theory of the mind that L. Ron came up with was totally in line with what was known back in the 30s and 40s but it isn’t compatible with what we’ve learned over the last 60 years. Memory doesn’t work like Hubbard claimed, the mind doesn’t work like Hubbard claimed. People are not spiritual beings inhabiting a succession of MEST (matter, energy, space and time) bodies. No “facts” recovered from an auditing session about a past life has ever been verified.

    Scientology is a very convincing pseudo science… as such it actually attracts very intelligent people. But none of it’s claims can be verified using the scientific method because they simply aren’t true.

    What happens to rational people with a scientific bent of mind who don’t really have any experience doing actual science is they fall prey to confirmation bias. Since they think of themselves as rational, and they have experiences that they believe confirm Scientology, they are almost impossible to dissuade.

    • This was a wonderfully written response, and I thank you for your time in replying to the conversation. This is, of course, what I have been saying, but from an outsider’s perspective. As I am not about to pay money to be audited, it’s nice to have someone who has gone through the process (and has been able to step back from it) explain the weaknesses.

  13. This is the most refreshing post I’ve read in some time. You have clearly and pointedly covered ground that I have labored long to characterize. I see you have labored long too.

    Shame we aren’t sharing a beer and the good humor of immediate conversation.

    I treat all irrational beliefs the same way: I dismiss them. This is not being intolerant or judgmental. This is merely being consistent.

    Probably my favorite part of your post. Thank you for the confirmation.

    • Thank you for reading. I would be happy to share a beer (or a whiskey) if I was ever in the same city.

    • Thanks for the link, that’s the kind of stuff I’ve been asking for.

    • Yup. I do believe we have a member of the Sea Org here — probably a lower-ranking one, not part of the higher-ups who are allowed to sleep a full eight hours a day and live high on the hog while the lower-level Sea Dupes live crammed into communal dorms.

      Honestly, Sea Orgie, you don’t need the Church. You can leave it and you won’t become homeless or a drug addict. Nor do you have to pay their “freeloader bill”: http://blownforgood.com/?page_id=4


  14. Here’s a little bit o’ SOURCE, from http://www.rehabilitatenz.co.nz/pages/man-from-mud.html

    “It is often amusing to catch “science” out in its pompous parade of authority and gadgetry, and often amazing that some fields are not arrested for “false pretenses.

    Amongst those present in this parade is the modern “biologist” with his modern “Man from Mud” theory. According to the professors in this “field,” man is an animal who arose as a result of a spontaneous accident from a “sea of ammonia” and by the stages of development called “evolution,” arrived at the proud estate of a two-legged wog. This is the theory taught as the theory in.
    most universities today.

    So to those who resent people calling Scientology theory to account as “wild,” look at that “Man from Mud theory, a backbone of biology, psychology and psychiatry to name a few. It is excruciatingly funny.

    The idea of an “accidental” “combination of chemicals” coming alive, in all places, in a “sea of ammonia” and then evolving into a thinking being of the complexity of man is more ridiculous than a Joe Miller joke book.

    Yet the bearded ones will viciously flunk a student who dares to disagree. Biology means “life science” and is nothing of the sort by its own practice. It is at best “cytology,” a science dealing with body and vegetable cells as it is a subject entirely devoted to cells, not to life as everyone else thinks of it. So even its name is false.

    And on the subject of false names, modern “psychology,” using “biology” as its excuse for fixation on brains, dares pre-empts the word “psychology”. This means “soul, study of” (psyche = soul). But in their classrooms all they study is brains. They think that as man arose in a sea of ammonia by spontaneous combustion, they therefore have to concentrate on brain cells, feed them chemicals or cut them up to get at life. They are not psyche-ologists at all ‘ but at best “brainologists.” If you ask one to define “psychology” as a word he says (and so do his texts) that he doesn’t know what his science title means. This stops him right there. So he is a fake. That’s why he loves to call everyone else a “fake”. He knows he is one. He didn’t even know IQ could change until we came along. “Man’s IQ never changes” says his pre-Dianetic texts. After she read Dianetics, a psychologist in the late 1950’s got a national prize for saying IQ changed. She couldn’t change it but she said it changed. Afterwards universities got even with us by saying IQ didn’t exist. As this was about all a psychologist did-measure IQ (and study rats)?they wiped
    themselves out as a profession.”

    I only copied half, it gives a pretty good slice of L Ron’s thoughts on science and academia though. You can also read the wiki on Theosophy and find striking similarities with Hubbard’s ideas, one of his early offices was in the same building as a Theosophy temple.

  15. Good post; it speaks for a lot of us rationalists. More, please!

    (PS: Placing double spaces between sentences makes Baby Jesus cry. But I still wouldn’t recommend it.)

  16. Here, have some of LRH’s greatest hits – straight from horse’s ass!


    Includes such gems as The Obscene Dog, the Meat Bodies of Jupiter, the God Dynamic, and more! All for the low, low price of FREE!

    If anyone ever had a doubt that Scientology is batshit insane, all they have to do is listen to the words from the man who invented the con.

  17. So what if he was full of bulls@#t? LRH knew how to throw a good party.

  18. lyttleton,

    Nice post and all, kind of amusing to see a couple scientologists “pissing” in our direction (not my word), especially when they keep such a good semblance of rationality, but I want to make a constructive criticism on your blog style. Try upping the font a notch or two and making the text black, you’ll gain a lot on readability, I think it will be worth it.

    (Also, string theory is dismissed because it is lacking in testable predictions, not because it is still in the shop mathematically speaking.)

    • Thanks for the suggestions on the site appearance. I don’t know why I didn’t think of switching the font to black in the first place. WordPress is kind of a pain when it comes to actually formatting your page, though, so I have no idea if I can even change the font size (or how to do it if it is possible).

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