Skeptic » eSkeptic » April 6, 2016

The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine


JANNA LEVIN, April 10

Gravitational Waves, Black Holes and the Nature of the Cosmos

Learn more

STEPHON ALEXANDER, May 22

The Jazz of Physics: The Secret Link Between Music and the Structure of the Universe

Learn more

The Flying Spaghetti Monster. Stained glass by Sarah Pierce. Photo by John Dill via Flickr [CC BY 2.0].

About this week’s feature

They say “God works in mysterious ways.” Does He intervene in the lives of some people and not others based on the quality of the prayers of their friends and family? In this week’s eSkeptic, in an open letter to Larry Taunton, Michael Shermer questions Taunton‘s belief that his recovery from a bicycle accident was due to divine intervention prompted by the many prayers of family and friends.

Michael Shermer is the publisher of Skeptic magazine, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, and a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University. His book The Moral Arc is now out in paperback. Follow him on Twitter @michaelshermer.

Bike Crashes, Divine Intervention, and the Nature of Evil
An Open Letter to Larry Taunton

by Michael Shermer

On my cycling training ride today, which is when I do most of my deepest thinking (unless I’m riding with the Young Turks who like to go fast, in which case there’s no blood in my brain and I’m doing no thinking at all), I had an idea for a debate we could do on theodicy, the nature of good and evil, why bad things happen to good people, and why things happen at all (chance, law, or design), starting with your near-fatal bike crash, recovery, and the credit for it. As your friend and occasional debate partner, and especially as a fellow serious cyclist who has had a few run-ins with cars in my days on the open roads of America, this got my attention and got me thinking…

In your twitter feed following your bike crash and recovery, you thanked God for the “miraculous” nature of your return to health and acknowledged those who prayed for you. Of course you are grateful for being alive given the alternative (although in your case, given your Christian beliefs about the soul and the afterlife, the alternative isn’t such a bad thing, right?). But how do you know it was God and prayer that enabled your recovery? Assuming your tweets were not of the generic gratitude for being alive sort, along the lines of what anyone might mean when they say “thank god for such a beautiful day” or “thank heavens our company didn’t go under this year,” your gratitudinal gestures indicate that you believe divine intervention is what saved you. To wit:

My physicians say that I am a walking miracle. If this is so, it is due to the many prayers offered on my behalf to a mighty God.

And from your office twitter feed:

Update: Oct 10 Larry was hit head-on by a car while cycling. He’s at home now recovering. He’s grateful for your prayers & glad to be alive.

Good news: Larry’s condition has been downgraded. He’s been moved from ICU to Trauma. He values your prayers as he recovers.

Larry‘s body is broken, but not his spirit. He trusts in God’s sovereign plan and is humbled by your many prayers on his behalf.

Pray for Larry. He was hit by car cycling and is in intensive care in serious but stable condition.

And from your friends:

@LarryTaunton May God comfort and fully restore you, our General in the faith. I agree your greatest days are ahead, hence the attack.

Again, I do not doubt your appreciativeness to your friends and well-wishers for saying nice things—we all like that, of course—but if you also attribute your recovery, at least in part, to divine intervention, then a few questions come to mind. […]

Read the full open letter

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN “SKEPTIC” COLUMN FOR APRIL 2016

HOOEY. DRIVEL. BALONEY…

Would you know it if you saw it?

magazine cover

Babble, bafflegab, balderdash, bilge, blabber, blarney, blather, bollocks, bosh, bunkum. These are a few of the synonyms (from just the b’s) for the demotic descriptor BS (as commonly abbreviated). The Oxford English Dictionary equates it with “nonsense.” In his best-selling 2005 book on the subject, Princeton University philosopher Harry Frankfurt famously distinguished BS from lying: “It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction.” BS may or may not be true, but its “truthiness” (in comedian Stephen Colbert’s famous neologism) is meant to impress through obfuscation—that is, by saying something that sounds profound but may be nonsense. […]

Continue reading the column

FOLLOW MICHAEL SHERMER ON
TwitterFacebookInsightThe Moral Arc Blog

The Discovery of Richard III’s Grave and the Fallibility of Memory

Richard III grave was excavated in 2012. The story of the discovery is incredible, particularly the account of Philippa Langley’s extraordinary flash of intuition while visiting an ordinary parking lot in 2004, but was this intuition real or is it a case of faulty memory?

Read the Insight

NEW EPISODE

The Way of the Mister: Science & Religion are Mortal Enemies, Part III

Brian Dalton explains why the values of science are at war with the values of religion in Part III of The Way of the Mister series entitled: “Science & Religion are Mortal Enemies.” Be sure to watch Part I and Part II first, if you missed them.

FOLLOW MR. DEITY
DONATEPATREONFACEBOOKVIMEOMRDEITY.COM

2 Comments »

2 Comments

  1. Bad Boy Scientist says:

    The discussion of healing through divine intervention reminded me of an incident told to me by a skeptical friend of mine.

    He met up with an old friend who had a chronic medical problem – one of those that bedevils Doctors so they tell patients to “Learn to live with it.” The old friend found some herbal supplements that made the symptoms get much better, improving his quality of life. My skeptical friend, knowing more details than I can recall at the moment, figured it must be the placebo effect. He was about to explain this insight when he realized: the placebo effect doesn’t work too well if you know it is the placebo effect. His friend found some relief from his condition – whatever the mechanism – so the human thing to do was keep his mouth shut and let it work.

  2. nba 2k16 mt guide says:

    Sustain the remarkable work !! Lovin’ it!|
    nba 2k16 mt guide http://theraaurora.bcz.com/2016/04/06/madden-nfl-methods-and-16-ideas-for-a-game-that-is-better/

Get eSkeptic

Science in your inbox every Wednesday!

eSkeptic delivers great articles, videos, podcasts, reviews, event announcements, and more to your inbox once a week.

Sign me up!

Donate to Skeptic

Please support the work of the Skeptics Society. Make the world a more rational place and help us defend the role of science in society.

Detecting Baloney

Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic) by Deanna and Skylar (High Tech High Media Arts, San Diego, CA)

The Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic)

For a class project, a pair of 11th grade physics students created the infographic shown below, inspired by Michael Shermer’s Baloney Detection Kit: a 16-page booklet designed to hone your critical thinking skills.

FREE Video Series

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Understanding the difference could save your life! In this superb 10-part video lecture series, Harriet Hall, M.D., contrasts science-based medicine with so-called “complementary and alternative” methods. The lectures each range from 32 to 45 minutes.

FREE PDF Download

Top 10 Myths of Terrorism

Is Terrorism an Existential Threat?

This free booklet reveals 10 myths that explain why terrorism is not a threat to our way of life or our survival.

FREE PDF Download

The Top 10 Weirdest Things

The Top Ten Strangest Beliefs

Michael Shermer has compiled a list of the top 10 strangest beliefs that he has encountered in his quarter century as a professional skeptic.

FREE PDF Download

Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future (paperback cover)

Who believes them? Why? How can you tell if they’re true?

What is a conspiracy theory, why do people believe in them, and why do they tend to proliferate? Why does belief in one conspiracy correlate to belief in others? What are the triggers of belief, and how does group identity factor into it? How can one tell the difference between a true conspiracy and a false one?

FREE PDF Download

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

Do you know someone who has had a mind altering experience? If so, you know how compelling they can be. They are one of the foundations of widespread belief in the paranormal. But as skeptics are well aware, accepting them as reality can be dangerous…

FREE PDF Download

Top 10 Myths About Evolution

Top 10 Myths About Evolution (and how we know it really happened)

If humans came from apes, why aren’t apes evolving into humans? Find out in this pamphlet!

FREE PDF Download

Learn to be a Psychic in 10 Easy Lessons

Learn to do Psychic “Cold Reading” in 10
Easy Lessons

Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation.

Copyright © 1992–2017. All rights reserved. The Skeptics Society | P.O. Box 338 | Altadena, CA, 91001 | 1-626-794-3119. Privacy Policy.