Ugly Elves & Inflatable Orcs: Rankin/Bass’ 1977 ‘The Hobbit’ Reviewed

On a review of the 1977 Rankin/Bass animated version of The Hobbit.


Author JRR Tolkien believed that we each have a great sacrifice to make, for the betterment of all humanity. Frodo bore the Ring, for the sake of The Shire; Aragorn walked the Paths of the Dead, for the sake of the Free Peoples; and I watched Rankin/Bass Productions’ 1977 animated television production of The Hobbit, for you, my readers.

You’re welcome. Do I get to sail to Tol Eressëa now?

Read Ugly Elves & Inflatable Orcs: Rankin/Bass’ 1977 ‘The Hobbit’ Reviewed on

The 50 Laws of Science Fiction Physics


Inspired by such mainstays of geek humor as The Laws of Cartoon Physics and The Laws of Anime Physics, I have assembled the following 50 Laws of Science Fiction Physics.

This list was in part inspired by my previous post, Tired Sci-Fi Tropes That Must Be Retired.

Law of Selective Gravitation: All artificial bodies in space generate an internal gravitational field, equal to one gee, with “down” defined as the “bottom” of the body; this gravitational field somehow terminates exactly at the outer hull of the body, even if it is irregularly shaped.

First Law of Gravitational Irrelevance: a spacecraft may travel from a planet’s surface into space in the same manner in which an airplane gains altitude, ignoring the need to achieve escape velocity.

Second Law of Gravitational Irrelevance: a spacecraft may fly directly towards or away from a planet or other large celestial body, ignoring the fact that objects in space must describe elliptical orbits about each other.

Law of Inertial Dampening: No matter how much kinetic energy is directed at an inhabited body (in space or on a planet), the resulting disruption will be enough to jostle the inhabitants and cause minor structural damage – nothing more or less.

Law of User Interface Equivalence: When a spacecraft or space station takes damage to any structural component, the computer screen or workstation used to monitor that structure from the bridge or engineering center will explode.

Law of Ethical Xenopolymorphism: While malevolent aliens come in many forms, beneficent aliens are always humanoid.

Law of Sexual Xenopolymorphism: Humanoid alien females will always have mammalian secondary sexual characteristics (breasts, wide hips, full sensual lips), even if they are non-mammalian (lizard, avian, piscine, insectoid, etc.).

Newton’s Fourth Law of Motion: In space, constant thrust equals constant velocity.

Kubrick’s Law of Motion in Microgravity: all motion in a “zero gravity” or microgravity environment will take place at 22% of the speed it would occur at sea level; this applies to animate persons as well as inanimate objects.

Exception to Kubrick’s Law of Motion in Microgravity: persons in a “zero gravity” or microgravity environment may speak at normal speed.

Allen’s Law of Motion in Microgravity: objects freely floating in a “zero gravity” or microgravity environment will behave as if suspended from a transparent thread within a full gravity environment.

Law of Sound in a Vacuum: Despite the lack of a medium for transmission, sound will travel in a vacuum, with precisely the same properties as in the Earth’s atmosphere at sea level.

First Law of Combustibility: Anything important – spaceships, planets, robots – explodes when it is critically damaged, whether any combustible material is present or not.

Second Law of Combustibility: When anything explodes, the mass of the resulting ejecta will be less than 2% of the object’s original mass; the remainder of the mass ceases to exist.

Third Law of Combustibility: When objects explode in space, all matter that makes up the object comes to a complete stop relative to the observer, whatever its previous velocity. The explosion will then expand in an equal sphere away from the point where the object stopped.

Fourth Law of Combustibility: All objects that explode in space produce a discrete ring that expands ahead of the main shock wave; this is a fundamental principle of Aesthetic Physics.

Fifth Law of Combustibility: The shock wave of an explosion is confined to the visible fiery ball of the explosion; and both will move at 98% of the speed of anyone attempting to fly, drive or run from the explosion. After a certain distance, the speed of the shock wave will quickly drop off for no apparent reason.

Sixth Law of Combustibility: The destructive force of a nuclear warhead, and the resulting deadly radiation, cannot penetrate the skin of a typical 1950s consumer-grade kitchen refrigerator.

First Law of Practical Stellar Physics: as an observer approaches a star, the brightness of the visible light it gives off diminishes proportionally.

Second Law of Practical Stellar Physics: a star will produce no radiation except for (1) visible light and (2) a variety of heat that behaves identically to heat convection in an atmosphere, despite the lack of a transmission medium.

Third Law of Practical Stellar Physics: the dangerous or destructive region of a stellar body ends abruptly at the outer termination of its photosphere, except for the heat and light described in the Second Law.

Law of Teleportation: the amount of energy produced when converting matter to energy for the purpose of teleporting that matter to a distant location is an insignificant fraction of the amount predicted by Einstein’s mass–energy equivalence equation; this is a fundamental principle of Convenience Physics.

Law of Technological Complexity: No matter how advanced a technology, anyone who needs to use it will be able to deduce its basic functioning within a few minutes – even if the person belongs to an alien or less-developed culture, or comes from the distant past.

First Law of Aerodynamic Irrelevance: Objects designed to travel solely in space may nonetheless be designed with aerodynamic properties.

Second Law of Aerodynamic Irrelevance: objects designed to travel in solely in space, and which therefore are highly non-aerodynamic, may still travel in an atmosphere as if they were perfectly aerodynamic.

Corollary to the Laws of Aerodynamic Irrelevance (The O’Brien Rule): any object in space that is not designed to alter its velocity, vector or location, such as a space station, may alter its velocity, vector or location through a minor, previously unrealized engineering trick.

First Corollary to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity: Einstein’s Theory of Relativity may be ignored at any time, for any reason; this is a fundamental principle of Convenience Physics.

Second Corollary to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity: when light, or any form of electromagnetic radiation, is employed as a weapon (such as with a laser or blaster), its speed is reduced to approximately 35 miles per hour.

Personal Equivalency Many-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics: alternate universes and timelines do not follow the standard laws of contingency – rather, the same individuals will be born in the alternate universe as are born in ours, although their life paths may diverge; this is irrespective of any other changes, major or minor, to historical outcomes.

Ethical Determinism Many-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics: alternate universes and timelines do not follow the standard laws of contingency – rather, historical outcomes are determined by the moral choices of the identical version of the visitor from our universe.

Abrams’ Many-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics: in an alternate universe or timeline, events will conspire to place equivalent persons into the same social groups they occupy in our universe.

The McFly Rule: If a time traveler prevents a key historical event from occurring, he or she has one week to arrange an equivalent event that will restore the timeline.

First Law of Convergent Evolution: any alien species, regardless of the environment in which it evolved, will morphologically resemble an extant Earth species, albeit with changes in size, color, bodily features and level of intelligence; aliens may also resemble chimera of multiple Earth morphologies.

Second Law of Convergent Evolution: despite the fact that closely-related species from the same planet cannot produce viable offspring, any two humanoid species from different worlds may produce viable offspring that will bear blended traits from both species.

Law of Convergent Visemes: when a technological device is used to translate the speech of a humanoid alien, that alien’s lips and mouth movements will nonetheless appear to match the English speech of the translation.

Omegan Law of Convergent Social Evolution: a humanoid species on a distant planet is likely to pass through exactly the same historical eras, and evolve precisely the same social institutions, as the human civilizations of Earth.

Law of Extraterrestrial Euhemerism: any primitive human superstition is the result of contact with advanced alien technology; this includes psychic powers, magicians, ghosts, angels, fairies, vampires, werewolves, demons, dragons, messiahs and gods.

Law of Technological Trajectory: the more hyper-advanced an alien or future technological artifact, the more likely that it will resemble a large, illuminated crystal.

Law of Irradiated Macrofauna: due to mutations triggered by artificial radiation, animals may grow to enormous sizes normally ruled out by the surface-area-to-volume ratio.

Corollary to the Law of Irradiated Macrofauna: irradiated macrofauna will invariably seek out large human population centers and battle each other.

Influence/Malevolence Relationship in Science: the greater a scientific or technological achievement, the greater the probability that the scientist responsible for it suffers from a mental illness and/or ethical deficit.

Diamond’s Law: an advanced spacefaring species will always oppress, absorb or destroy any less advanced, non-spacefaring species with which it makes contact.

Anthropocentric Exception to Diamond’s Law: an advanced spacefaring species will always oppress, absorb or destroy any less advanced, non-spacefaring species with which it makes contact, unless that species is humanity.

Roddenberry’s Law of Cybernetic Omniscience: any sufficiently advanced computer system will contain the sum all of human knowledge down to the most inconsequential detail, even if the computer was constructed by and for aliens.

Gill’s Law of Alien Impressionability: any humanoid alien species will, upon being introduced to some detail of human history or culture, reconfigure its entire society based solely upon the human example; also known as the Iotian Law.

Law of Atmospheric Inexhaustibility: on a spacecraft, space station or other artificial habitat in a vacuum or near-vacuum, no matter how much air is lost when an airlock is opened or the hull is breached, after the air loss is terminated there will still be sufficient atmosphere to comfortably support the survivors.

Doctrine of Human Psychological Infortitude: any human gifted with transhuman abilities by an alien or future intelligence will initially attempt to perform good works with his or her new-found powers, but will be eventually driven insane and commit destructive acts; also known as the Mitchell Effect.

Doctrine of Hostile Alien Tourism: when technologically advanced spacefaring aliens initiate a war or invasion against the Earth, their first strategic maneuver will be to destroy a number of famous human landmarks, usually ones with no strategic or defensive value.

The ForbinCameronWachowski Corollary to Turing’s Test of Machine Intelligence: it is possible to demonstrate that a machine has achieved genuine intelligence or sentience, as its first act upon gaining self-awareness will be to attempt the annihilation of humanity.

The Lucas-Asimov-Herbert Model of Human Galactic Societal Development: any vast, galaxy-spanning interstellar human civilization will resemble in many or all respects the empires of the species’ ancient pre-technological past.

And… number 51:

Even’s Revision to Clarke’s Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from lazy writing.

Feel free to add your own Laws of Sci-Fi Physics in the comments below.

‘Atheist Mythology:’ or, Speaking Truth to Crazy

Updated 1/21/09.

I have gone through several phases in my various ill-fated efforts to debate Creationists. At first, I made the freshman error of debating the facts, learning too late that theists have no interest in facts, and freely invent their own (as do conspiracy theorists and UFO believers).


Then I switched to contempt and ridicule, as theist propositions are invariably contemptible and ridiculous, whether involving Creationism or not. Unfortunately, third parties who have yet to form an opinion tend to view such dismissive and seemingly hostile tactics as de facto evidence that one has no substantive arguments to make. Said parties need only to spend sufficient time with theist arguments to reach the stage of contempt and ridicule themselves; but by this point all they remember is that the atheist was a jerk, and decide erroneously that (impossibly) both sides are equally wrong.

So I reached the third and final stage of anti-Supernaturalist pose, that reached by most professional scientists who lack the intestinal fortitude of a Dawkins or a Shermer – ignoring the idiots.

But a while back a friend emailed me a link to a blog post entitled “Atheist Mythology.” My friend knew quite well I would take the bait, and I did. In recent years I have been dragged back into anti-Supernaturalist arguments by my girlfriend who, while not exactly a believer in Astrology or Homeopathy, will vehemently defend these thoroughly discredited ideas, and views my supposed lack of open-mindedness as a character flaw.

So why am I reproducing my Quixotic efforts to debate “Atheist Mythology” here on my blog? The reasons are made clear below, but to summarize: the author of said blog post suffers from a genuine character defect common to a certain brand of theist, the apparently uncontrollable urge to censor and misrepresent the arguments of one’s challengers. He has confused the ability to edit the comments of one’s visitors with permission to do so. It reminds me of a common moral defect amongst those who self-identify as “Conservatives,” the idea that if something is legal (in the secular sense, such as profit maximization, or in the religious sense, such as child abuse) then it must be moral; and if something is illegal (in the secular law, marijuana use; in religious law homosexuality), then it must be immoral. Because the post author’s blog platform allows him to edit visitor comments, he assumes it must be ethical – otherwise, wouldn’t the God of the Internet prohibit him from doing it?

Below is the original “Atheist Mythology” post; all other visitors responses in the form in which the blog author published them; and my responses in their entirety, with the portions removed by the blog author in bold.

Atheist Mythology (the original post on BuyThe Truth)

Every belief system has an account of origins, and atheism is no exception. Narratives for atheists include the Big Bang (origin of the universe) and evolution (origin of variety and complexity of living organisms). Instead of man being formed out of the dust of the ground by God, man is formed out of the dust of the ground by evolution. It never ceases to amaze how those who espouse naturalism can poke fun at the Biblical account of origins, and yet be unable to see the ridiculous nature of their own position.

One who has studied a great deal about mythology is Raphael Madu. In his work African Symbols, Proverbs, and Myths: the Hermeneutics of Destiny he refers to earlier work by Earl MacCormac in Metaphor and Myth in Science and Religion, and Madu points out (footnote, page 96):

Because men have traditionally assumed a dichotomy between myth and science, it might be shocking to talk of scientific myths… Scientific explanations are known for being falsifiable and thus temporary, but to forget these qualities of science and assume that they are absolute and final, is to create a myth. The dissimilarity between religious and scientific myths is largely on the level of content. While the former are replete with descriptions of legendary heroes and deities, the latter are filled with mathematical symbols and references.

Evolutionists have forgotten about falsifiability, and present evolution as a dogma, and are thus creating myths. One of the most prolific popularizing narrators is Carl Zimmer, and he is going into overdrive with evolution mythology this year. He writes for the New York Times, as well as magazines including National Geographic, Discover, Scientific American, Science, Popular Science and Time. His books include Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea; At the Water’s Edge: Fish with Fingers, Whales with Legs, and How Life Came Ashore but Then Went Back To The Sea; and the Smithsonian Intimate Guide to Human Origins – you get the idea.

The staggering thing about popularizers such as Zimmer and Dawkins is that though what they write is great narrative, it’s indistinguishable from fairy tales and ‘just so’ stories. What is lacking is any evidence and rigour. They simply recycle suggestions and postulates, and weave them into a narrative to be accepted as fact. It’s the stuff of myth. Indeed, one of Dawkins’ books is entitled The Ancestor’s Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Life, complete with prologues, and a last chapter entitled Canterbury, so giving more than a nod to Chaucer’s Tales. It’s a tale indeed, far, far away from anything like science, but it goes down a treat with the atheists. Zimmer is also preaching to the converted, because for all the accolades showered upon him by atheists, what he writes sounds plain goofy, but they can’t discern it. Listen to some of his pronouncements from a recent article entitled Evolving Darwin in Time magazine.

The fossil record points to hippos and other hoofed mammals as being the closest living relatives to whales. So does their DNA.

Yes, evolutionary biologists really do believe that – both the blue whale and the hippopotamus are conjectured to have a common ancestor, a cloven-hoofed beast like a tiny deer, no bigger than a domestic cat, that lived in Kashmir and Pakistan. This is one of Zimmer’s hobbyhorses, and he has written extensively about it. Only when you accept evolution as a dogma does such a narrative makes sense – otherwise it is fantastic.

The slavish reliance on DNA (their newest toy) and the acceptance of evolutionary dogma is little different from the discipline of higher criticism in the literary world, which seeks to use ‘scientific’ methods and analysis to show the origin and evolution of texts. Applied to the Bible, this produced wacky assertions in the late nineteenth century that John’s gospel, the Johannine epistles and Revelation were written by authors who never knew Jesus, and the letters of Paul were written by the heretic Marcion. The Higher Critics built their fantastic theories, and had University faculties teaching them as facts, but a lot of these theories now look very, very silly. But we digress; Zimmer continues

Our own DNA contains clues to the bonds we share with the rest of life–it turns out, for instance, that we are closer kin to mushrooms than to sunflowers. It’s been 1.5 billion years or more since our ancestors split off from our fungal cousins. How did the genome of our ancestor change so that it could produce two-legged primates?

“There was an old lady who swallowed a fly. I don’t know why she swallowed a fly. Perhaps she’ll die.”

…Some 2 billion years ago, one of our single-celled ancestors took in an oxygen-consuming bacterium. That microbe became the thousands of tiny sacs found in each of our cells today, known as mitochondria, that let us breathe oxygen.

So there you go. Once upon a time your ancestor was a primitive microscopic one-celled entity, which swallowed a bacterium, which exchanged and scrambled some genetic code, which enabled your ancestor to evolve into a system that could breathe oxygen. Just add a couple of billion years, give or take, and some of your ancestor’s descendants evolved into magic mushrooms, and some evolved into man.

Evolutionists now teach that both the fungal kingdom and the animal kingdom are merely sub-groups of the ‘opisthokonts’, cells that have a single posterior flagellum (as animal sperm cells have), which plants lack. Cracraft and Donoghue in Assembling the Tree of Life state

The sisterhood of animals and fungi is now well accepted by evolutionary protistologists.

Well, only in the last few years as the myth has matured. To suggest that man is closer kin to a fungus than to a flower is like stating that the computer you are reading this on is more akin to a grain of sand than a snowflake because there is silicon in semiconductors, and sand contains silicon, but there’s no water in computers. But what about the fact that a snowflake has form, as does a computer, whereas sand is amorphous? It all depends what attributes are compared. Comparisons between things that are so different in their structures and complexities are meaningless. If you take evolution as a fact, then it necessarily follows that you will try to force all living things into a ‘Tree of Life’ that supports your presuppositions. Anthropologists are still arguing, based on DNA studies, about the relationship between modern man and Neanderthal man (who, it is said, disappeared only 20,000 years ago) – whether there was any interaction between populations. Yet Carl Zimmer can confidently assert that all the mitochondria in our cells, and our ability to breathe oxygen, came from an invasion of bacteria into a single-celled mould that was once the common ancestor of us all two thousand million years ago.

The same myth appears in Dawkins’ Ancestor’s Tale, and is traceable to the endosymbiotic hypothesis proposed by Wallin in the 1920s, and popularized by Margulis in the 1970s. No experimental evidence has been or can be presented to test it, so it is just another of those unscientific untestable hypotheses beloved by atheists, and it has now entered the mainstream dogma of evolutionists as it provides a rough and ready just-so narrative of how things came to be – without a designer. Myths about origins always seem so far fetched, don’t they? – except to those who believe them.

I should like to know how this yarn differs from any of the fantastic myths about origins found amongst different peoples and cultures. In essence, it is little different from Sumerian, Egyptian and Hindu mythology: it is a makeover of ancient myths dressed up to appeal to modern man. Atheists are developing their religion and straining every nerve to play catch up with the other faiths, and we now have the myths of atheism, which sit neatly alongside the myths of so many other religions. We have the myth of evolution, and we have the myth of the Big Bang. And we have wonderful storytellers.

What we are seeing and dealing with here, when we read their writings, is evidence neither for the evolution of the universe, nor for the evolution of man, but evidence for the evolution of atheist mythology.

Previous comments:

Moses Presley
I think you are right to lump science and myth into the same category. Certainly, science is often a ‘job for the boys’ from the right background along with jobs in the media, the established church and the political institutions. You need to be careful, however, not to suggest the existence of a ‘supreme being’ or omnipotent ‘God’ as originator of all things… now that would be ‘barmy’!
Moses Presley (space cowboy)

ScientistForTruth responds
True science, of course, properly conducted, is not myth. But there are a lot of ’scientific’ narratives being spun today that are myth. When entities such as dark matter and dark energy, which nobody knows anything about, have to be invoked to constitute 96% of the universe (the remaining 4% is the real type of matter and energy that we know about) just to keep the Big Bang theory afloat, then you know you’ve entered the world of myth. The Ptolemaic system had its equivalents: the dark matter was the crystal spheres and the dark energy was angels pushing the planets round. You can’t see crystal or angels, of course, just like we can’t see dark matter and dark energy. Oh, but you can see their effects, they cry, so that proves they are there! Unfortunately the medieval entities had to be conjectured because for two thousand years the world was hamstrung by Aristotle’s physics, taught with authority. If you get the basic scientific principles wrong, everything else will be wrong.

I read your last sentence as tongue-in-cheek – I hope that’s right.

At last some sense. I was so pleased to read this page. People should remember, Darwin’s theory of evolution is just that a theory.

Also remember science is just one way of looking at the world, like wearing a pair of spectacles.

Darwin’s theory of evolution failed completely for me in 2005. Before this I had accepted the theory. After ten years of deliberation / reading / modelling I reached a conclusion in 2005. It became clear that it just does not add up.
In the same way that we need invisible dark matter and dark energy to make our physics formulas work Darwin’s theory relies on the unseen past.

What is visible to us all is just how often “true” statements in science are later found to be incorrect. Science thought that DNA would be the answer, provided by the genome project. Great claims were made. The result of completing this work was that science realised it was more complicated than it thought and each strand needs to be broken down into millions. Great, anyone notice the scope creep here. And all the big talk on this research being used to bring cures to us humans. Nonsense. We have seen few cures for human ailments but many many green mice, human ears grown on mice and modified crops (which when trailed destroyed the ecosystem it was grown in).

I’ll make some outlandish statements here just for fun which are an alternative representation of scientific fact. Monkeys evolved from humans, can you name a creature that has successfully evolved but its old version still walks the planet?

Dinosaurs were so big because gravity on earth was stronger back then than it is now.

My First Comment:

Here is my first comment, in its entirety. The blog author’s additions are in italics, and the portions he edited out are in bold.

Sometime [sic] we receive comments that are antagonistic towards the position presented in the post, yet which by their very nature and content actually prove and demonstrate the point being made in the post. The following is a good example. I have snipped parts which refer disparagingly to comments made by others.

The studied ignorance and anti-intellectualism displayed on this page, as well as the egoism, are breathtaking.

I am always astounded when theists are so eager to ensure their beliefs are not denigrated as inferior to scientific concepts, that they will willingly denigrate BOTH to make them equal. The author’s argument is based on two transparent fallacies: (1) all statements not proven absolutely true are equally true, and (2) if the author cannot imagine an idea is true, then it cannot be true. Anything the author doesn’t like (evolution, biblical exegesis) is “wacky.” Well, I guess if this writer, an individual with no education (not even self-education) in science or comparative religious studies, says it’s wacky, it must be wacky.

Of course, the author has not created a situation where science is proven false and their own personal religious bias is shown as true, which one would assume is their goal. Instead, in the author’s universe, nothing is true, ever. All “truth” is a matter of personal preference. This is because all the author can muster to defend their worldview is personal preference.

“Moses” suggests that science must be false because scientists largely work within established academia, and anyone who works within a traditional, established framework must be corrupt. This is equally as absurd as assuming that anyone working within a traditional, established framework must be a saint. Science does not claim truth from status, any more than it claims truth from revelation.

The “Scientist” for “Truth” incorrectly labels dark matter and dark energy as “myths.” They are hypotheses, which explain data that has not been otherwise accounted for. Whether they prove to describe real phenomena or not, they are useful in developing whatever eventual theory explains the data. Supernatural explanations explain nothing.

“Marc” makes several ignorant comments. In science, “theory” does not mean “guess.” No evolutionist, ever, has suggested that humans evolved from monkeys. Not even once. “Can you name a creature that has successfully evolved but its old version still walks the planet?” Sure. YOU. Mammals evolved (through countless intermediaries) from single-celled organisms, which still “walk” the planet. I don’t understand the gravity comment — scientists have never seriously considered such a claim. Are you trying to be sarcastic? And finally, your personal disappointment in DNA research does not constitute evidence of anything.

You people all seem disappointed that the universe does not conform to your personal expectations. I do not understand why you ever thought that you, personally, were so important that it should.

ScientistForTruth responds
We presume the commenter means ‘egotism’. This comment itself is breathtaking for its ignorance and egotism. The fallacies referred to don’t appear in the post. The author neither believes nor asserts the things attributed to him. The commenter is literally ignorant of the author, and yet asserts that the author is “an individual with no education (not even self-education) in science or comparative religious studies”. The commenter, Erik Even, is a copywriter with an arts degree, and perhaps not best qualified to make such a judgment. Confusing egoism (= a concern for one’s own self-interest) with egotism (= a belief that one is superior to others) isn’t a very promising start on a copywriting career, either. The author of Atheist Mythology, on the other hand, has an honours and masters degree in science and engineering, having read physics at Oxford University and engineering at Southampton University, been published in learned journals, been granted more than 40 patents, been awarded the Queen’s Award for Technological Achievement, and has 30 years’ experience practising science and engineering, specializing in magnetics. Perhaps he knows a little more about science than Erik Even. Just perhaps.

The commenter’s assertion that “in the author’s universe, nothing is true, ever. All “truth” is a matter of personal preference” is a falsehood. Even the title of the blog implicitly declares that truth is objective.

Dark matter and dark energy ARE myths. It is a particular blindspot of atheists that they cannot see that many of the things they believe are acts of faith, and self-deluding myths. The claim that “They are hypotheses, which explain data that has not been otherwise accounted for. Whether they prove to describe real phenomena or not, they are useful in developing whatever eventual theory explains the data” exemplifies just how confused are those who do not understand epistemology and evidence. Angels and crystal spheres were “useful” to the false model of the Ptolemaic system insofar as they kept the false model from being abandoned – they were useful at perpetuating error. Dark matter and dark energy play a similar role in the theory of the Big Bang, a thoroughly discredited model as unscientific as any explanation of the cosmos ever made by the most primitive religions. This theory survives only due to the myths that have to be invented to prop it up. Now here is a real logical fallacy: “they are useful in developing whatever eventual theory explains the data”. That is a fallacy known as begging the question. They are not at all useful if they are invoked to prop up a false model. They then don’t help develop a more realistic model, but serve to underpin a false one. They are invoked to put the Big Bang on life support, rather than letting the disproved theory die. The final phrase tossed in, “Supernatural explanations explain nothing” is cheap ignorant rhetoric. Since no one has the slightest idea what dark energy and dark matter are, and they cannot themselves be detected, other than by the supposedly inferred effects they have on ordinary baryonic matter (just like the inferred effects of angels and crystal spheres), then the conceptual entities are currently indistiguishable [sic] from being supernatural themselves. Mathematical entities invented to fill in the gaping holes in a discredited theory may have no real and natural existence whatsoever.

My responses:

Here is my response, in its entirety. I posted it in two parts.

Part 1 (which the blog author deleted in its entirety – therefore it is in all bold):

First, an ethics lesson.

You are free to moderate your own site, but since the “Wild West” days of the Internet, a code of etiquette has developed. This code has been formalized as the Creative Common licenses – but even people who do not subscribe to the CC are expected to show common courtesy.

You are free to delete any comment you feel is inappropriate, but editing a comment for content is unacceptable. Some sites use silly tricks, like disemvoweling; or they will notify the commenter of their objections, and permit the commenter to edit the comment. These practices constitute a worse kind of censorship than mere deletion, as they strongarm the commenter into conforming to editorial policy. If you want a contributor to edit their work to adhere to a policy, then pay them. Otherwise, just delete comments. Or be brave and intellectually honest, and publish comments you disagree with in their entirety (barring profanity, defamation and illegal content).

But what you did not even rise to that level. You edited the original comment for content, and then repackaged it within a comment of your own. Now, as a professional blogger (that means I get paid a full salary to write for a blog full-time by a corporation), I do this all the time. But I always link back to the original source; if this is not available, I credit the source and if possible quote it in full. Anyone who sees my edited version can immediately see the original, to check if I misquoted it, or if I took quotes out of context. You eliminated the original from the Internet, after editing it to conform to your own argument.

Your “snipped” sections contained no profanity, no ad hominem attacks, no factual errors. They were merely responses to the comments made in this thread. If it is this blog’s policy that commenters should not respond to other commenters, well, that would be a bizarre policy – but it should be posted on your blog’s (nonexistent) About Me page, (nonexistent) FAQ, or (nonexistent) Moderation Policy.

As for Internet privacy, I posted here under my widely and professionally-used pseudonym “Kunochan.” I did not use my real name. Honestly, I don’t care – I have never made an effort to hide my identity online, and my Kunochan WordPress identity has my real picture and links to my personal blog. Other users of your site, however, may not expect to be “researched” and have their name repeated. Many people have much stronger expectations of Internet privacy than mine, and although I find their arguments somewhat foolish (both unrealistic and unnecessary), I nonetheless respect their wishes out of simple politeness.

Finally, the blog editor has misrepresented my education and professional background. I only have an “arts” degree in the sense it is a “bachelor of arts” degree – in Anthropology, which is a science. I would have earned a bachelor of science degree, but that program was discontinued while I was at UCLA, and I chose to complete the BA program rather than switch to another department. Furthermore, I have been employed both as a museum educator and a high school biology teacher. I have never worked as a professional scientist, but I am well educated in Biology, Evolutionary Sciences, Astronomy & Cosmology, Physics, Anthropology, Primatology, and Archaeology. I follow journals and attend conferences.

None of that makes me a scientist. But neither would a career in engineering. An engineer is no more a physicist than a medical doctor is a biologist, or a biology teacher is a biologist. And a person with Physics and Engineering training is not necessarily trained in Organic Chemistry, Evolutionary Theory, or Atmospheric Sciences.

Of course, I could research your real identity, “ScientistForTruth,” but it is nowhere on your blog. The post above was not even written under that name, but is anonymous. I could probably figure out your identity by examining your posts, or with Google, but I shall refrain, since you seem to desire privacy.

However, your scientific background does not matter to your arguments. You may well be widely read in all the above topics. Simply put, your arguments against science are not based in science.

But now I am veering out of my ethics lesson and into my actual response, which is the next post.

Part 2 (as before, the blog author’s insertions are in italics):

ScientistForTruth says
Kunochan attempted an ethics lesson asserting that it was unethical to snip out parts of his comments (those parts that commented on other commenters) without allowing readers to see the whole unexpurgated comment. We don’t agree, and will not be following that advice. There are thousands of blogs out there where commenters are trading comments and insults between each other with no reference to the matter in hand. This blog is not a free-for-all. Comments are welcome, but will be moderated. They may appear in whole, in part, or not at all, and may or may not be accompanied by responses by ScientistForTruth. Deleted portions will be designated by [snip] or the ellipsis, or some other obvious means. Comments that appear, with or without deletions, do not imply that we are in agreement with them. Please try to restrict comments to the material on the post itself.

The following is from another comment by Kunochan. Because of its extreme length we have interlaced responses at appropriate sections

SFT: “We presume the commenter means ‘egotism.’”

No, we presume the commenter meant egoism. “Egotism” is the attempt to build yourself up to others. “Egoism” is the actual belief in your own superiority.

My experience with theists is that they tend to disdain egotism, while succumbing to an incredible egoism. In this case, I am characterizing the idea that the Universe must conform to an individual human being’s hopes, desires, wishes and biases as egoism – indeed, the greatest egoism ever experienced. Every religion, every supernaturalist belief system places human beings in general, and the system’s followers in particular, at the center of the Universe.

I honestly do not understand this egoism – I personally have never needed nor desired for the Universe to care about me or cater to my wishes. In fact, I’m quite glad that the Universe does not grant wishes to some people but not others; that it does not threaten us; that its laws can be deduced without the need for special revelation.

Anyway, I won’t tell you how to build a magnet, if you don’t tell me what words mean.

ScientistForTruth responds
Egoism is a technical word in metaphysics (which can variously be ethical egoism, psychological egoism, philosophical egoism, normative egoism, rational egoism etc) and means a concern for one’s self-interest, and it is an antonym of ‘altruism’. It is essentially a valueless word. You said that egoism is the belief in your own superiority, which is a value claim. The Encylopedia of Philosophy warns against this error, saying ‘“Egoism” should be distinguished from “egotism,” which means a psychological overvaluation of one’s own importance, or of one’s own activities.’ So if you actually mean ‘a belief in one’s own superiority’, then you mean egotism.

The only sense in which I can see your use of egoism as being consistent with what you write (though inconsistent with the facts) is in the sense of epistemic egoism. But epistemic egoism (=accepting no truth authority outside oneself) is the philosophy of atheism. By definition, no Christian theist can be described as an epistemic egoist – he can’t be a Christian at all if his epistemology doesn’t make room for divine revelation. American Baptist Fundamentalist Creationists (no, I’m not one of them) are certainly not epistemic egoists as they accept the Bible as an external authority. Roman Catholics additionally accept papal authority. Christians don’t believe that ‘the Universe must conform to an individual human being’s hopes, desires, wishes and biases’, they believe that an individual human being’s hopes, desires, wishes and biases should conform to the will of God as he has revealed it. It is completely the opposite of what you assert. Augustine – probably the greatest and most influential Christian figure in the western world in the last 1900 years, and accepted by the Protestant and Roman Catholic traditions – certainly asserted it. Read his Confessions. And of course the Bible asserts it.

In the same vein, your assertion that Christians put themselves at the centre of the universe is entirely false. In spite of your anthropological studies, you have been badly misinformed here. On the contrary, atheists put themselves at the centre of the universe because they see no external authority, no external rational mind beyond themselves or mankind, and therefore they (or mankind) are the sole arbiters of truth, ethics and reality, and are masters of their own destiny, with responsibility to no creative power. One really can’t get more self-centred, egotistical and epistemologically egoistical than that. Contrariwise, Christian theology teaches that man was created in the image of the eternal Godhead, is not the measure of all things, must accept certain truths by revelation, is essentially infinitesimally weak compared to his creator, who knows and upholds all things, and that man is ultimately subject to the will and judgment of God, whom he is to serve, and who is to be the ultimate object of his love. If you think that puts man (in the context of Christian theology) at the centre of the universe, then your understanding of Christian doctrine is pitiful.

SFT: “The commenter is literally ignorant of the author, and yet asserts that the author is ‘an individual with no education (not even self-education) in science or comparative religious studies.’”

You are right, I should not have written that. I apologize. I was then unaware (and still cannot be certain) of your educational background.

But it is clear from the above post, and from several other posts on your blog, that you have arbitrarily and unilaterally dismissed entire academic subjects as unworthy of consideration. I know you do not see these dismissals as “arbitrary,” but I am having trouble characterizing them in any other way.

What I should have said was, “an individual with no interest in science or comparative religious studies.” I know you won’t see it this way, either – you allege a strong interest in science. But you reject science, almost in its entirety. I can hardly evince a strong interest in English literature if I refuse to acknowledge the existence of anything written after 1550.

ScientistForTruth responds
I strongly take issue with this. To say that I have “arbitrarily and unilaterally dismissed entire academic subjects as unworthy of consideration…[have] no interest in science…[and] reject science, almost in its entirety” is scurrilous nonsense. None of those assertions are true in the slightest degree. Like your ideas about words and Christian doctrine, you clearly delight in declaring falsehoods.

SFT: “The fallacies referred to don’t appear in the post. The author neither believes nor asserts the things attributed to him.”

I just conducted an interesting intellectual exercise – I’d like to teach it to you. I temporarily accepted your criticism of my post as fact – that I had misrepresented fallacies in your post – and reread my own post on those terms. Here’s what I learned.

My statement (2) “if the author cannot imagine an idea is true, then it cannot be true” holds up perfectly. In this post, you make no scientific or rational arguments against the Big Bang Model or Evolutionary Theory. You do not even refer to such arguments. You simply dismiss your own characterizations of those theories as incompatible with your own expectations. I think you’re even attempting to make the theories sound silly, but you fail, because you actually characterize them rather well. Nothing you quote sounds like a “fairy story.”

My argument for statement (1) “all statements not proven absolutely true are equally true “ is much weaker, as it comes from reading between the lines. You characterize scientific concepts as myths, and religious concepts as myths. Then you imply, although do not state, that the latter can replace the former.

I think here I may be attributing to you an argument often used by anti-science theists, which you may not consciously be recapitulating. But I suspect that, like the “Intelligent Design” movement to which you may or may not subscribe, your railing against the whole of Cosmology and the whole of Biology hides an agenda not only of supernaturalism, but specifically of American Baptist fundamentalist Creationism. One crutch used by those who argue for Creationism is to attempt to level the playing field, by presenting theology and science as equivalent and overlapping magisteria. They are in fact overlapping, but they are not equivalent.

A better way to phrase the fallacy, which may apply more closely to your own ideas, would be, “all statements not proven absolutely true are of equally unknown veracity, and therefore equally worthy of consideration.” This is fallacious and illogical.

Please attempt to consider your own ideas within the framework of the two fallacies above, rather than simply dismissing them outright. You may be surprised at the extent to which you have fallen prey to them.

ScientistForTruth responds
The reason I’m not giving an alternative worldview in this post is because the post is about Atheist Mythology, as it is entitled. Exposing atheist myths and not providing an alternative does not imply that the writer has no defensible worldview. That is an illogical fallacy. Moreover, because the writer is critical of certain aspects of science (very few have actually been tackled on this blog), this does not imply that the writer believes that all science is myth, or that he has no interest in science, or that he almost entirely rejects science. That’s another illogical fallacy. On the contrary, the author considers it a great privilege to be involved in scientific endeavour, and believes that it is possible to obtain a better understanding of truth and reality in the natural realm through pursuit of the natural sciences. The author does not believe, in spite of the assertions of Kunochan, that an imperfect and partial knowledge is a knowledge not worth having. He can try to put words into my mouth as much as he likes, but I shan’t be repeating them. Like many areas of life, there is corruption is science, and it is rife within the scientific community. I have being pointing this out since the 1970s. Corruption is most likely to take hold in those areas where experiments cannot be conducted: for example, we cannot experiment on anything outside the solar system, nor (realistically) on the earth as a whole, nor on events in the distant past. Of all the sciences, astronomy is perhaps the most corrupt. For a hundred years it has been out of the reach of impartial observers to view deep space objects. Even within the profession, telescope time is often granted only by committee, and it is now normal practice not to allocate telescope time to astronomers who do not subscribe to the prevailing dogma.

SFT: “Angels and crystal spheres were ‘useful’ to the false model of the Ptolemaic system insofar as they kept the false model from being abandoned – they were useful at perpetuating error.”

This entirely misrepresents the history. Medieval models based on Ptolemy were the earliest European attempts to build a rational model of the Universe. Philosophers postulated crystal spheres because they viewed “action at a distance” as irrational. One of Newton’s greatest breakthroughs was to demonstrate that action at a distance was not irrational, and it occurred all around us all the time as gravity. The mathematically accurate and scientific theory of “fields” (gravitational and electromagnetic) is an attempt to explain and visualize action at a distance. (Of course, gravity and electromagnetism are “just” theories.)

Newton made the crystal spheres obsolete. Without the spheres, Newton may not have had a suitable theoretical framework in which to form his own theories. We often build new hypotheses based on the flaws in old ones.

Your preconceived bias seems to be that if an idea is wrong, then it has no scientific or rational value whatsoever. This is simply incorrect. Your quote by Madu only states that sometimes people (lay people or scientists) refuse to let go of discredited scientific hypotheses. It’s the fact that they are discredited but still believed that makes them “myths,” not the simple fact that they were incorrect guesses. The luminiferous ether, Steady-State Cosmology, Lemuria, homeopathy and irreducible complexity were all once scientific theories, compatible with existing data; and they were all useful in developing Relativity, Big Bang Cosmology, Plate Tectonics, Chemistry and Evolutionary Theory, respectively. They’re only “myths” if you still believe they’re true.

ScientistForTruth responds
It was Brahe and Kepler, not Newton decades later, who obviated the crystal spheres. By observing comets, which did not crash through spheres on their way to the sun, they concluded that there was nothing solid that could be constraining the motion of the planets. As far as action at a distance is concerned, the phenomena of electrostatic and magnetic attraction and repulsion (with no obvious intervening medium) had been known since the ancient world, so action at a distance was established. The charges against Newton for occultism in other respects, were, as we know, well founded.

As far as engineering is concerned, it is true that principles and understanding can be scientifically erroneous, but technically useful. This is a view of science known as instrumentalism. It is the success of instrumentalism that gives non-scientists the sense that science must be advancing rapidly, when the truth is it has been in the doldrums since the 1920s. However, I do not consider that, in scientific realism, the espousing of false views can be said to be ‘useful’. They can surely only be useful in an instrumental sense.

This is getting too long, so let’s end with:

SFT: “Dark matter and dark energy play a similar role in the theory of the Big Bang, a thoroughly discredited model as unscientific as any explanation of the cosmos ever made by the most primitive religions.”

There is no sense in which the Big Bang Model can be honestly described as “thoroughly discredited.” The greater scientific community, the Physics community, and Cosmologists all accept the Big Bang Model as the correct general model of the Universe. Serious scientific objections were all silenced by the COBE data, and by a dozen subsequent experiments, all of which subscribe to standard scientific rigor. No one has been able to cobble together another theory that can explain the data – and many have tried. (I’d like to hear yours.)

The world secular community has no problem with the Big Bang. The Catholic Church, the world’s largest single religious group, reconciles the Big Bang (and Evolution) with a Creationist philosophy. Some Muslim countries suppress science, including the Big Bang and Evolution; but some countries with large or majority Muslim populations (China, India, Turkey, Indonesia) have modern scientific education.

You can dislike the Big Bang Theory all you want (I have no idea why) – but you can’t honestly call it discredited. It’s the second most established theory in science. (Guess which one’s the first?)

ScientistForTruth responds
The argument from authority or consensus is not a scientific argument but a political one. The persistence and extent of a myth among those who believe the myth is hardly suprising and can never be adduced as evidence that the myth represents truth and reality. It should be obvious to anyone looking fairly and impartially at the empirical evidence (and it would be better to be looked at by those who are not so close to it, to avoid conflicts of interest) that observations have disproved the BB hypothesis repeatedly. The BB hypothesis survives because of the enduring power of myth, and because entities can be multiplied to try to pretend that the train is still on the rails when it spectacularly crashed and disintegrated years ago. It is now a myth supported by dogma – that should help it. What do those who espouse the myth and pronounce the dogma do with the evidence that shatters it? – they ignore it, they describe it as coincidence, they persecute those who hold contrary views, they refuse to investigate it, they refuse telescope time to those who have doubts about the standard model, they get angry and make ad hominem attacks, and they club together to ensure that no heretics will ever prosper in their realm, and marginalize any mavericks. Not surprisingly, many observers can’t be blamed for believing that the BB is an established fact.

The BB is in fact discredited as a hypothesis under the normal terms of scientific enquiry, but you are tying the concept of whether something is discredited to the opinion of a large body of people. In terms of opinion, yes, it is still a powerful force. I was meaning discredited in the sense that a belief has been demonstrated to be untrue in the sense of scientific realism. Sure, there are a whole host of reasons why folk choose to continue to believe passionately in something that is demonstrably false – that is exactly why the BB is most appropriately called a myth according to your own definition.

The problem began in the 1920s when Edwin Hubble’s made empirical measurements of red shift of nearby galaxies. Hubble was a great astronomer, for whom I have considerable respect, and I generally accept his findings that for certain classes of object (local galaxies) there is a relationship between redshift and distance. I don’t know of anyone who disputes this. But Hubble was too good an astronomer to suggest that this necessarily implied a relationship between distance and velocity. Estimates of distance were measurable by comparing size, luminosity, Cepheid variables etc. But velocity was not, and never has been measurable. So, so-called Hubble’s Law, which Hubble himself never espoused, was promoted off the back of the Belgian priest Lemaitre’s questionable ‘solution’ to Einstein’s equations to propound a Big Bang (though not called that at the time). Lemaitre’s solution is questionable (but still espoused by the BB theorists) because it allows for singularities – division by zero in ordinary understanding. Einstein himself thought this was cranky. This led to fanciful ideas such as black holes and the universe emerging from an infinitesimal point. There are far more reasonable solutions that don’t involve breaking the laws of physics. However as a very tentative hypothesis – that redshift was a result of Doppler shifting, and that therefore the universe was expanding – it was acceptable to see where it could take us. However, when evidence has arisen, as it has since the 1960s when highly redshifted objects were detected, that all was not well with the original assumption, and one could see that it was going to become a train wreck, the whole basis should have been re-evaluated, especially as it was built on a solution that broke the known laws of physics. Since then, evidence has poured in confirming that the assumptions in the 1920s were incorrect, yet the BB is still propounded, and all manner of esoteric mathematical fixes (none of which has been found to have any physical reality) have been introduced to pretend that the train wreck didn’t happen, or that the train miraculously sprouted wings and flew over the hazard. So we have inflation (which supposedly saves the day by proposing a scalar field, which has no known physical objective reality), dark matter, dark energy, and a mass of other practically supernatural entities that are now supposed to make up 96% of the universe and break the known laws of physics. They are practically supernatural because they have never been detected themselves, no-one has the slightest idea what they are, and there are no known laws of physics applying to them. In that sense, they cannot be demonstrated to be any less supernatural than angels and demons, which apparently do not have to comply with our laws of physics either, but can interact with real baryonic matter, and have real existence, since they were created. If it is asserted that these cosmological mathematical entities are not supernatural, but some form of ‘natural’ substance or energy that we don’t know about, so be it: but then angels and demons and any other created spiritual non-baryonic entity can be put in the same class, and such a class has traditionally been called supernatural. The thing is, atheists are so afraid to be classed as supernaturalists that will try hard to wriggle out of such a connection – they can denounce angels and demons as supernatural, but can have like entities so long as they are not branded supernatural – how deceitful! Of course, any discredited theory can be rescued by continually multiplying supernatural entities and varying the laws of physics to keep everything jogging along – this is what happened with the Ptolemaic system, but William of Ockham has something to say about that.

The COBE measurement of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation was simply a more accurate measurement of what had been measured since the 1940s, and only connected with the BB since the 1960s. This is regularly trotted out as a proof of the BB, but that is both farcical and hilarious. Those who held the BB cosmology did indeed propose a background radiation, but what was their proposed thermal temperature? Well, it climbed from 20K in the 1940s, to 20-30K in the 1950s, to 40-50K in the early 1960s. When Wilson and Penzias measured it at around 3.5K in 1964/5 it was hailed as a confirmation of the BB. The COBE measurement was around 2.73K. Now let’s see: the difference in energy density terms (i.e. something that has physical reality, since energy density is the fourth power of temperature according to Stefan-Boltzman law) between the accurately measured level and what was the BB prediction by Robert Dicke and George Gamow just before Wilson and Penzias stumbled upon it (without knowing what it was) is a difference of over 100,000 times – 5 orders of magnitude. Do you think an error of 5 orders of magnitude is confirmation?

Wilson and Penzias asked Robert Dicke for help to understand what they were measuring and he told them it was what was expected from BB cosmology – except it wasn’t: Dicke had estimated it as over 27,000 times too high from orthodox BB cosmology, so he was – to say the least – being completely disingenuous

Now, compare this with the predictions made by those not working from the BB hypothesis: first proposed at 5.6K in 1896 by Guillaume, refined by Eddington in 1926 to 3K and by Regener in 1933 to 2.8K; and measured and estimated at 2K by McKellar (1941) and 3K by Tigran Shmaonov (1955). The twentieth century predictions and measurements average at 2.7K, which is very close to the measured 2.73K. Given that non-BB concepts predicted almost exactly what was measured, whereas the BB proponents were many orders of magnitude out, wasn’t it the height of dishonesty for Dicke and the BB proponents (and all others since) to claim that this result was predicted from BB orthodoxy? As a plain fact of history, it wasn’t, and as a plain fact of history the non-BB proponents were extremely close – in fact Gold’s work in the 1950s (he espoused Steady State) predicted 2.78K, which is exceptionally close to what is measured. None of this proves that the Steady State or other cosmologies were correct – the point is that those who try to falsify history to underpin a false dogma are liars. Of course the BB was ‘fixed’ after the measurements were made (4-5 orders of magnitude of fixing is really something) as it always has – the lesson is, never throw out a convenient myth or question its assumptions (as it’s now dogma), in the face of inconvenient truths – always fix it by inventing and multiplying entities.

Now, the isotropic nature of the CMB radiation was for a long time an embarrassment, as it was thought that there should be significant anisotropy to account for the settlement of the universe into galaxies. The COBE measurements showed that the temperature fluctuations were of the order of +/- 0.00027 degree, equivalent to energy density variations of +/-0.04% across the whole sky. Again, this almost insignificant anisotropy was taken to be a confirmation of the BB hypothesis. But an impartial scientist, seeing that the universe is visually inhomogeneous, and the sky visually anisotropic will have no difficulty seeing that a connection between +/-0.04% anisotropy of any measurable phenomenon and an expanding universe (where the predicted energy density was 5 orders of magnitude out, not to put too fine a point on it) is nothing less than charlatanism.

My response. It is entirely in bold, because ScientistForTruth refused to publish it.

Between arguing with you (not debating – too many of your responses are mere negation to constitute a debate) and conversing with certain other magical thinkers recently, I have become aware of a new (to me, anyway) strategy in magical thinking. The major strategies of which I was previously aware are (1) make rational and irrational thought equivalent, something you do but vehemently deny; (2) hide behind specialized jargon, whether theological or philosophical, and deny the equivalence of certain words and concepts (again, you are guilty); and (3), misrepresent your opponents arguments even more than you misrepresent your own (SUPER GUILTY!).

The new, alarming strategy is to not merely couch supernaturalist fallacies in scientific language, but to insist that magic is science. Not like science, or better than science, or compatible with science – but actual mainstream science. Homeopaths, osteopaths, and subluxation chiropractors do this; Ramtha-ites and transcendental meditation practitioners do this; Intelligent Design frauds do this; and you do this. You have adopted the persona of “scientist” into your self image almost as strongly as you have adopted the persona of believer in magic, and the effort to reconcile the irreconcilable has led to you a cognitive dissonance so extreme that one of your identities, scientist or theist, had to go. So (and pay attention here, this is the root of your entire problem) instead of abandoning your identity as a scientist, you decided that EVERY OTHER SCIENTIST IN THE WORLD is not a scientist; indeed they are all corrupt, and out to get you.

Some points:

“The argument from authority or consensus is not a scientific argument but a political one.”

With whom are you arguing? You said that the Big Bang theory was a thoroughly discredited model – yourself making an argument from (lack of) consensus – and I corrected you. There is no sense in which an honest person, even an opponent of the theory, can call the central tenet of Cosmology “thoroughly discredited.” By characterizing the Big Bang as widely accepted and well supported, I was not making an argument from authority – I was discrediting yours. Thoroughly. And since belief in a Christian god is the ultimate “argument from authority,” I find your criticism ironic.

“But epistemic egoism (=accepting no truth authority outside oneself) is the philosophy of atheism… Christian theology teaches that man was created in the image of the eternal Godhead…”

Oh my God. I invoke “God” ironically, of course. There’s almost too much here to get my head around. At least you finally got around to admitting that your “dissent” against science comes from typical 19th century Christian biblical literalism, and nothing interesting or new.

1.) Why would you choose to misrepresent atheism to an atheist (Huxleyan agnostic, a more extreme position, but that’s semantic nitpicking), who knows many atheists, and reads many atheist works? It’s only going to work on someone who doesn’t know what atheists think. Atheists don’t accept any truth authority whatsoever, whether inside themselves, or the kind you believe in which is inside yourself but you pretend it’s outside. Atheists accept reason and observation only. Scientific consensus is accepted provisionally. Atheists have taken a good hard look at the universe, and figured out it has no anthropomorphic qualities. Atheists look to humanity to develop morals and meaning, not because we applaud ourselves or the human race, but because there’s simply no one else to do it. That’s not a “myth” – it’s an observation. An observation you have also made, which is why you expend so much effort to maintain your “faith.”

2.) You claim you’re not guilty of egoism, because you supposedly subordinate yourself to a magic creature. Yet this magic creature, which in your cosmology not only made the universe but is the universe, loves you individually; loves humanity out of all the vast universe (you accept that the universe is incomprehensibly vast, right? I know the conspirators won’t let you use a telescope); is concerned with every detail of your life; will give you specific instructions on how to live, if you ask right; will violate the laws of physics on your behalf; and thinks you are so damned special, it will preserve your existence for all of infinite time.

But no, you’re not an egoist.

“..we cannot experiment on anything outside the solar system, nor (realistically) on the earth as a whole, nor on events in the distant past”

Ah, the Laboratory Fallacy. I see you skipped Science 101. Scientific inquiry is not, has never been, and cannot be confined to simple laboratory inquiry. Laboratory experiments are not the only way to prove hypotheses and develop theories. General Relativity was demonstrated by Eddington through an observational experiment. Events in the distant past are observed by the effects they leave behind in the universe today. Hell, we can SEE events in the distant past through the telescopes that you claim a vast international (no doubt Jewish?) conspiracy keeps from honest inquirers such as yourself. It is not necessary to place a black hole in a beaker to know that certain radio objects have exactly the characteristics predicted by black hole theory. You don’t have to smash a fossil in a rock tumbler to count strata and figure out how old it is. It’s funny that someone who believes in a firmly Hard Anthropic Universe trots out the Soft Anthropic Principle to try to disprove every scientific advance since Alfred Russel Wallace was hit in the head by a flying frog.

I have examined your diatribe against the Big Bang theory, and understood more of it than I thought I would. I should thank my college Cosmology professor. But it is littered with statements that are inaccurate at best, lies at worst. Velocity is measurable. Black holes have been observed thousands of times. There is no relationship between singularities and “dividing by zero;” singularities have been successfully described mathematically – in fact, they were invented mathematically. You seem to be confused about how scientists characterize dark matter and energy, as if they weren’t disturbed by their ignorance in these areas. You commit fallacy number one above by equating dark matter and energy, which if they exist must conform to physical law, with angels and demons, which are the very fairy stories you mock elsewhere. The difference is that, despite your mischaracterization, dark matter and energy must adhere to science, while magic does not. Then, amazingly, you quote Occam’s razor. Unfortunately for you, the most convoluted amalgam of inflation, dark thingies, string theory and quantum nonsense is by definition far simpler than the “God hypothesis.” God is the most complicated thing imaginable, since it must contain all other systems. And of course, it explains nothing.

Saying that “’supernatural explanations explain nothing’ is cheap ignorant rhetoric” is cheap ignorant rhetoric. I know because your response constitutes nothing more than “nuh uh uh.” Supernaturalism can explain nothing because explanations require logic and reason, or they are not explanations by definition. Magic denies that logic and reason can explain the universe – by definition. Once you define a magical space creature, a Jewish zombie or otherwise, as the ultimate cause of reality, the obvious question, raised by every schoolchild, is what created the zombie? When you reply that the zombie is uncreated, or (in the ultimate abandonment of logic and English syntax) self-created, the more intelligent schoolchild simply points out that if the Great Space Ghost can be uncreated or self-created, then so can the universe – we just cut out the middleman. Occam’s razor.

You keep referring to metaphysics. Although this is a traditional branch of philosophy, which counts scientific Cosmology as a sub-discipline, it is entirely inappropriate to introduce metaphysical concepts into a scientific discussion. Metaphysics has yet to abandon supernaturalism; therefore it has nothing to say about science. It is, for all intents and purposes, theology.

You write of a conflict between science and “atheistic naturalism.” Science IS naturalism; its original name was “natural philosophy” for good reason. Science is materialism; to assign science a supernaturalist component is to destroy it. Naturalism and supernaturalism, science and religion are opposites by definition – your misuse of these terms renders them all useless. This is not a matter of taste, nor of philosophy – adding magic to science would be the same as removing magic from religion – science wouldn’t be science just as religion wouldn’t be religion. The very definition of science is the search, through rational investigation, for materialistic laws of the universe. If you posit a magical universe, then you must also posit a universe without science – after all, magic has no rules, the incessant efforts of theologians to invent these rules out of thin air notwithstanding. Since you completely misunderstand what science is, I’m not surprised that you also misunderstand Biology and Cosmology – mo matter what education you claim.

As an analogy, a Marxist economist may disagree with Capitalism, may even despise it. But if he or she does not understand what Capitalism is; misrepresents it; refutes that its principles even constitute economics; then that person is not an economist. They are not even a Marxist, since Marxism relies on Capitalism as its basis.

You say you are someone who “considers it a great privilege to be involved in scientific endeavour.” Your lack of understanding of the most fundamental principles of science; your willingness to discard any scientific evidence or conclusion that conflicts with your bias toward magical thinking; your habit of opposing scientific conclusions based not on evidence or reason, but on their perceived incompatibility with Conservative politics; these make your statement not merely incorrect, nor a faulty opinion, but an outright lie, of which I believe you are consciously aware.

You have reached the erroneous conclusion that you can’t be a good, moral person unless you adhere to a fictional magic worldview. This is nonsense. And as long as you pretend that you are some kind of scientist, you are not only a liar, but also a fraud.

Perhaps you will view this as an insult, and not print it. That would be in character, but certainly ironic – you already characterize all atheists, all liberals, and most scientists as liars and frauds on your blog.

I’m sure you will continue to misrepresent science on your blog, and to suppress dissenting voices, as you seem to lack the bravery and moral character necessary to examine your own worldview critically. But I’m hopeful that someone visiting this site who is confused on these issues will learn enough to seek out genuine information.

UPDATE: 12/17/09, Davy left a comment, into which ScientistForTruth inserted a reply.

Full disclosure: Davy is an offline friend of mine, who found this post via my Facebook page.

Why have Kunochan’s comments been censored? It’s dishonest to edit out the parts of his arguments with which you can’t contend, but respond to the rest as if it were the whole of his argument.

I see also that you’ve deleted two of his replies to you in their entirety – but he’s posted them elsewhere, and it does you poor service, and quite undermines any attempt at intellectual honesty you might make, to eliminate his polite disagreement with your thesis.

ScientistForTruth replies
You are misinformed. I have not deleted two of his replies. Firstly, I’m not obliged to put up any or every comment received here. Secondly, the whole post not put up was referred to in my reply to another comment of his – it was a rather silly comment hectoring about the ethics of editing comments, and frankly unworthy to be put up here. You’ve seen it elsewhere so you can judge for yourself. I don’t go round changing people’s wording, and tampering with comments like that. If I remove parts it is because they are abusive, off topic, prolix etc, and removal is shown by the ellipsis or [snip]. The two parts I removed from his comment related to comments on other people’s comments, nothing to do with the content of my post. I will continue to use my judgment to remove such comments in future.

By the way, his disagreement is far from polite. His characterization of the Christian God as a ‘magic creature’ and Jesus as a ‘Jewish zombie’ is completely out of order.

Moreover, his making false assertions of what people believe, when he either does not understand or is wilfully misrepresenting, is disgraceful and dishonest.

Final Response to ScientistForTruth (1/21/10):

Well, it’s clear that ScientistForTruth isn’t going to reply to my last post. That’s his right, I guess. (Online handles are funny. ScientistForTruth is as much a scientist for truth as I am a female Japanese child — as “Kunochan” implies, at least to the

But I want to say one thing in response to Davy, who privately contacted me to concur with ScientistForTruth on a single point, that certain phrases I used in my reply were disrespectful, or at least counterproductive. (I don’t remember Davy’s exact words, and if I’m misconstruing his message, I apologize. If he corrects the record by commenting below, I promise not to censor him.)

Theists need to control language, for the exact same reasons that Ingsoc invented Newspeak. For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to address this as it regards Christianity – but every single supernaturalist belief system, from Buddhism and Islam to Homeopathy and Paranormalism, does precisely the same thing.

When I say “Jewish Zombie,” I am saying something accurate about one aspect of the messy pantheon of supernatural entities that Christians believe in. “Jesus” is described as “Jewish.” That’s the Greek Scriptures, not me. (The name “New Testament” is anti-Semitic, so I tend not to use it.) Jesus is described as undead. “Undead” means one was alive, then died and became a corpse, then came to life again. This is the precise sequence of events in the Christian myth. Yet even the neutral term “undead” is unacceptable to Christians. “Zombie” is right out.

I can also say “Space God.” The God of Christianity, a kind of vague, dumbed-down version of the ancient Jewish Yahweh-El, is said to be omnipresent. Well, 99.999-add a few thousands 9s-% of the universe is empty space. So, “Space God.” Accurate, but they won’t have it.

Christians worship a pantheon of Six-Limbed Bird-Men. They will object to “worship” and “bird-men” – I don’t know about the “six-limbed” – but all these characterizations are perfectly accurate. Some Christians even believe you turn into a Six-Limbed Bird-Man when you die, giving you the power to watch over and grant wishes to your descendants, just as in Shinto. But call it “granting wishes” or compare it to Shinto, and Christians get their knickers in a twist.

I can call all of these beings “creatures,” because that’s what they are. They’re not humans (not even the dead humans, not anymore) and they’re not animals. But Christians don’t like “creature,” although they are strangely okay with “being.”

Christians cast spells. They never, ever call it that. They call it “prayer,” or “blessing.” But a prayer is still just a ritual meant to
appease a supernatural entity – a spell. A blessing is still a ritual meant to imbue an object with supernatural power. It’s all meant to get one of the three gods, or one of the pantheon of spirits, to violate the laws of the universe for your convenience.

(By the way, and this is an aside, but using that last line, which paraphrases the comedian Emo Philips, reminded me that I discovered who popularized ScientistForTruth’s unattributed quote about black holes “dividing by zero” – Steven Wright. You know, the imminent cosmologist and mathematician Steven Wright.)

If you don’t use the precise terms the theists use, you will “offend” them. ScientistforTruth says it’s “completely out of order.” He
doesn’t even defend this, not just because he can’t, but because he doesn’t think he has to do so. In polite society, one doesn’t
characterize religious concepts in any fashion that is not approved by religious persons.

This is ridiculous. Seriously, it needs to be ridiculed. It deserves no respect.

It comes out of the reprehensible idea that some ideas are special and cannot be questioned or examined. Two types of belief systems adopt this idea: religions and dictatorships. Religions call it the “sacred.” “Sacred” means “question this and I’ll kill you.”

And remember, the entire point of ScientistForTruth’s original post above was to ridicule scientific theories. He fails, because
scientific theories are not sacred. He can’t offend anyone. He just sounds silly. But it also shows that ScientistForTruth affords this special sanctity only to his own ideas, and no one else’s.

What’s most bizarre, at least with Christians, is the whole idea that calling their beliefs “magical” is somehow offensive. It’s the perfect word. God is magic. And if that bothers you, then STOP PRETENDING THERE’S A GOD.

ScientistForTruth claims I’m “demonstrating the horrors and the delusional nature of the atheistic mindset.” He hasn’t been able to identify any delusions, unless accepting an idea that ScientistForTruth finds personally distasteful for undefined reasons
counts as delusional.

But what are the “horrors” of the atheist mindset? Here they are:

  1. Humans are not the center of the Universe, nor the reason for its existence.
  2. The Universe operates according to set and relentlessly fair laws; it was not created and is not operated by creatures that can violate these laws.
  3. The Universe will not provide humans with a list of rules for organizing their society; humans must invent these rules themselves.
  4. The nature of the Universe will not be revealed by revelation; it must be discovered through the hard work of rational inquiry.
  5. Humans deserve to forge their own destinies, and not be trapped by the whims of fictional supernatural creatures or the humans who pretend to represent them.
  6. Humans cannot violate the laws of the Universe by concentrating really hard. They may, however learn the rules under which the Universe works and through this, accomplish amazing things.
  7. You are going to die.

These are the ideas that horrify ScientistForTruth. I’m not being sarcastic – they really do horrify him.

ScientistForTruth claims I don’t know what he really believes, and that I misconstrue his beliefs. Of course I don’t. I know exactly what he believes, because I have been bombarded by these beliefs my entire life. It’s not hard. A theology degree is not necessary – in fact, it would get in the way.

ScientistForTruth just doesn’t like the words I use to describe his beliefs. They are accurate words, but not the words he wants to use. So he tells me I’m wrong.

It’s a Jewish Zombie. If you like worshipping a Jewish Zombie, then don’t deny it, don’t apologize for it. If you don’t like worshipping a Jewish Zombie, then STOP.

I’m going to post this to the original blog, where he won’t approve it. But fair is fair.

This has been interesting. The whole point has been to work on my rhetorical skills, which are admittedly weak; and to try to find ways to ridicule the ridiculous without alienating the open-minded. I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it.

And ScientistForTruth – in the end, I feel sorry for you. Not because of all your hate and paranoia, or the delusional refusal to view the world as it is. I feel sorry for you because Science is WONDERFUL.

Why Are Firefly/Serenity Fans So Devoted… Even After All These Years?

Originally published on I Design Your Eyes on 12/1/09.

A model of Serenity.

Last month, the Los Angeles Airport Marriott hosted Creation Entertainment’s Salute to Firefly & Serenity, a small but well-attended fan convention featuring appearances by series actors Jewel Staite, Adam Baldwin, and Morena Baccarin & Alan Tudyk, both also from ABC’s V.

Of course Firefly is the science-fiction dramatic series broadcast on the Fox Network in 2002-2003, created by Joss Whedon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel fame. Canceled after only 11 episodes aired, the show has since engendered a major Hollywood motion picture (2005’s Serenity), a novel, a role-playing game, two comics series, soundtracks, a slew of merchandise & collectibles, and countless hand-knitted orange “cunning hats.”

I stopped by to get an idea of what’s going on with Firefly flans*, and to find out the answer to the question, Why are people still so devoted to a show that had only 14 episodes (and a movie), after nearly a decade?

Here are some answers from convention-goers, from commenters on, and from Zoic Studios co-founder Loni Peristere.

The Browncoats, a Firefly-themed band.
The Browncoats, a Firefly-themed band from St. Louis, Missouri.

Some credited the show’s realism, like Co-Pilot Gary Miller of The Browncoats, a Firefly-themed band from St. Louis. “[It’s] because Firefly feels so real. It’s a sci-fi show without aliens. It’s about real people and real-life types of situations — in the future. Not to mention the dialogue, the acting, and the story are all brilliant.”

For me, it was all about the writing. The dialogue, and the way the characters were developed through dialogue, were just brilliant. I especially loved the dialogue for River Tam (Summer Glau of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), the ship’s ultra-violent fugitive waif — she rarely spoke, but when she did, it was always a bizarre window into her disordered mind. And usually either disturbing or hilarious.

On, hughff says: “I agree that the writing is the key. Too frequently today, television and especially film concentrate on the visual image. However, great films/shows recognize that it’s a synthesis of both visual images and dialogue.

“There was never any doubt from the very start that Firefly had the dialogue right. More than what it told us about the characters per se, I liked what it showed about their interrelationships. The verbal exchanges between Mal and Inara; the way Jayne treated Kaylee like a little sister, the way that Mal’s trust and respect for Simon grew incrementally — these were important to the flavor of the show.

“The show didn’t avoid complexity — these were real people living in a messy (i.e. real) world (alright, worlds) and as such, things were never simple.

“Finally, and Zoic can take more than a little credit for this, the show did have some great visual images: the Reaver ship sliding past in absolute silence; Crow disappearing through the air intake; Serenity rising up the cliff after the bar fight. The off-center and shaky ‘hand held’ camera work, even in the CGI, began a trend that has become everyday (Bourne Ultimatum, Battlestar Galactica) but broke new ground for me. When I first saw the first episode I thought, ‘How could they be so amateur?’ But by the end I was hooked into the vision and never let it go.”

Firefly-themed collectibles on sale in the dealer’s room.
Firefly-themed collectibles on sale in the dealer’s room.

One of the most interesting answers came from Dwight Bragdon, Board Member of the California Browncoats, a San Diego-based non-profit that promotes Firefly and Serenity fandom through charity. Since 2007 they have raised over $100,000 for charities like Equality Now and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “We are still in love with Firefly ten years later because of the type of people the show attracts. We’re smart, funny and caring, and we took our energy and enthusiasm for the ‘Verse and turned it into a community of giving….

“We can also see how much the cast and crew cared about the ‘Verse too… They lead by example too with their charity. [Actor] Nathan [Fillion] co-founded Kids Need to Read with author P.J. Haarsma; [actor] Adam Baldwin shows great support to the Marine Corps – Law Enforcement Foundation; Joss [Whedon] is a great supporter of Equality Now; and the list goes on.

“These guys and girls are people that I am proud to call friends, proud to call family and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.”

For Beth Nelson, Chairman of the Austin Browncoats, another charitable non-profit based in Texas, the message of Firefly is hope. “People want to root for the underdog, because for many of us, we’re the underdogs right now. Firefly gives us that hope and inspiration. Firefly and Serenity tell the story of people who might have been forgotten, left behind, taken for granted — but if they work together, they can accomplish anything…

“So much of it has to do with how well the characters were developed and how sincere and believable the dialogue was – which is something Joss is known for… We’re all flawed; we can all identify with characters who… sometimes pick the wrong path, even with the best intentions.

“In the end, though, I think we all love what Firefly has become. Firefly went from being this amazing space western to so much more. Outside of the ‘Verse itself, the fans have become a family, a movement that got together to do more than just love a television show or a movie. Numerous fans are working towards charitable goals – ending violence and discrimination or making sure every kid has the wealth of knowledge literature can bring them.”

The dealer’s room.
The dealer’s room.

Loni Peristere was directly involved in the production of Firefly and Serenity, as visual effects supervisor. He created the Firefly-class spaceship Serenity, along with Whedon and production designer Carey Meyer. “When Joss first told me about the new show,” Peristere said, “he told me to read The Killer Angels,” the 1974 historical novel by Michael Shaara, which tells the story of the Battle of Gettysburg from the Confederate perspective. The novel inspired Whedon to create Firefly.

Firefly is about not fitting in, about finding a place for yourself in a world where you don’t fit, finding a family and making a living,” Peristere explained. “There are very few shows out there where the stars are outcasts, who join together as a family, which as Joss says is what ‘makes them mighty.’ None of the characters fit in – Nathan is a Browncoat [stand-in for Confederate]; Morena [Baccarin’s character] is a whore; there’s the fugitive; the tomboy; the interracial couple; the weary shepherd; the mercenary who’s incapable of doing anything else. They would all be loners, if they didn’t band together.

“How Zoic was part of that, is we made the viewer a ‘welcome voyeur.’ The camera followed the emotional beats. By using a handheld camera on-set and a ‘handheld’ camera effect for the CG exteriors, we put the viewer in the emotional center of the story. The viewer is a voyeuristic participant – another outcast, a part of the crew.”

Peristere also feels a special kinship with the Firefly cast and crew. “We knew it was important. We fell in love with it because it was a great story to tell. The show was made by creative people we loved and respected for their bravery, because they embraced the outcast. All the creative people I respect the most come from the cast and crew of Firefly. It was a moment that’s impossible to recapture.”

One last reason the flans and Browncoats stay devoted – because Firefly died too soon. From Jaydepps on “Another reason it is still relevant is because of how abruptly it was cut [off], and it never received closure. We’ve been thirsting for more. A good TV series goes for a decent amount of seasons until the story is filled in, mostly. Then the series leaves TV… Firefly was never given the chance to do this.”

More info: Creation Entertainment; the discussion on; The Browncoats website and on MySpace; California Browncoats; Austin Browncoats.

If you want to know why they call us “flans,” just read this aloud: “Firefly fan.”

My Halloween Serenity O’ Lantern [UPDATE]

I have learned today that having the audacity to wear a Firefly costume to work at Zoic Studios for Halloween will get you little but eye-rolls. (It’s the same costume I wore in 2006.)

But my first attempt at a Serenity O’ Lantern has received rave reviews.

My Serenity O’ Lantern in the “living room” at Zoic, with a slightly more accurate model in the background.

And a shot with the lights on.

And.. the original.


Me as Jayne Cobb, with the Serenity O’ Lantern .

And me as Jayne Cobb, posing in an actual door from the set of the film Serenity.

Quiz: Can You Identify These Geek Icons?

Originally posted in 9/06. Images restored 9/14/09.

Can you identify all 12 of these sci-fi, fantasy and geek-culture-related symbols? Anime, comics, gaming and computers have not been overlooked.

Some of them are very easy — others, I hope, are pretty hard. If you’re unfortunate enough to be using Internet Explorer, you can mouse-over the pics for a hint.

Answers follow. Good luck!

Hint:  Kaneda! Tetsuo! Hint: John Smallberries!
1. ____________ 2. ____________ 3. ____________
Hint: Can you form some sort of rudimentary lathe? Hint: Don't say the P-word. Hint: 64.
4. ____________ 5. ____________ 6. ____________
Hint: Waaagh! Hint: Burn the land and boil the sea, you can't take the sky from me. Hint: JRRT
7. ____________ 8. ____________ 9. ____________
Hint: I'd like A Better Tomorrow on VHS, please. Hint: In space, no one can hear you scream. Hint: First great graphic novel?
10. ____________ 11. ____________ 12. ____________

Select the following invisible text for the answers:

1. The design on the back of Kaneda’s jacket, “Akira” (1988). 2. Sheeta’s necklace bearing the Laputa crest, Miyazaki Hayao’s “Laputa” aka “Castle in the Sky” (1986). 3. The symbol on the side of Buckaroo Banzai’s jet car, “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension” (1984). 4. The logo of the NSEA Protector, “Galaxy Quest” (1999). 5. The logo for Network 23, Edison Carter’s evil employer, “Max Headroom: 20 Minutes Into the Future” (1985). 6. The Commodore Business Machines “chickenhead” logo; Commodore manufactured the PET and Commodore 64 personal computers. 7. The banner of the Imperium of Man from Games Workshops’ “Warhammer 40,000” series of science-fantasy tabletop wargames, RPGs, and computer games. 8. Logo of the evil Blue Sun Corporation from Joss Whedon’s sci-fi western “Firefly” (2002-03). 9. Runic symbol devised by fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien as a form of signature; formed from the letters “JRRT.” 10. Logo of Tai Seng Video Marketing, major distributors of East Asian cinema in the United States; brought the films of Chow-Yun Fat, John Woo, Jackie Chan and Jet Li to the U.S. 11. Logo patch of the USCSS Nostromo, “Alien” (1979). 12. Blood-spattered “happy-face” pin of the murdered Comedian, Alan Moore’s “Watchmen” (1986-87).

The 8 Dumbest Alien Invasion Plans in Cinema

Look out, alien dude! It's water!

Any reasonable person must agree that there is life in space, even if we haven’t discovered any direct evidence for it yet. And speaking statistically (look up Drake’s Equation), there must be other intelligent, tool-using life forms with whom we could conceivably communicate.

If I were forced to place a bet, I’d say that the human race will never encounter another intelligent species, if only because they will be so remote in space and time. I’d like to be wrong, and I sincerely hope that SETI will identify an artificial radio signal before I die. That would be preferable to actual alien visitors, who may wish to invade, or exploit us, or force their culture on us, or accidentally kill us all off with alien viruses. Or anally probe us.

If the aliens do decide to invade our world, I hope they are as stupid as the aliens in many science fiction films. I guess if you postulate that a species that is technologically far superior to our own wants to kill or exploit us, humanity’s only hope is that the aliens are unaccountably stupid. Of course, a science fiction author can postulate intellectually inferior extraterrestrials who nonetheless make use of advanced space flight technology, a la Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s Footfall. But the explanation for the aliens’ cretinousness must be compelling.

The actual explanation for why movie aliens are so dumb? Lazy writing, and/or film producers and studio execs who don’t understand science fiction. Instead of inventing plausible circumstances under which humans could defeat aliens, they cheat.

There is a second option, what I call the Robotech Option – let the aliens win. On Robotech, the scrappy crew of the SDF-1 must protect the Earth from the Zentraedi fleet. How can one ship defeat over a 4.8 million alien warships? The answer – it can’t. The Earth is destroyed. Humanity does eventually eliminate the Zentraedi threat through cultural imperialism (Chinese pop singers as deadly alien-slaying viruses), yet the damage to Earth is done.

But movie studios seem to feel uncomfortable with the Robotech Option, so they make the aliens idiots. Here are the 10 dumbest alien invasions from cinema.

The ground rules:

1.) I’m only doing movies. Stupid alien invasions from novels, television, video games, comic books and the works of Harry Turtledove will have to be dealt with another time.
2.) I’m not reviewing or criticizing the film itself. I am taking its depiction of alien invasion at face value, and mocking the foolishness of the aliens.
3.) The aliens must be invading; idiotic behavior from friendly or neutral aliens will not be covered.
4.) As always, please read the whole damn article before commenting.

That's great, stay in that position. The reception is perfect!

That's great, stay in that position. The reception is perfect!

8. Robot Monster, 1953

The Great Guidance, the leader of an alien world populated by large gorillas wearing diving helmets, decides that humanity must be destroyed. He sends Ro-Man, another large gorilla wearing a diving helmet, to Earth, armed with nothing but a Calcinator Death Ray device and a bubble-making machine.

Ro-Man uses the Calcinator Ray to kill every human being on Earth except for eight – six people hiding in a suburban tract house and two on board an orbiting space station. All eight are immune to the Calcinator Ray because they took a serum developed by the last living scientist. Yes, a serum that protects you from a death ray. Accepting this at face value, shouldn’t the aliens who invented the Calcinator have known it could be defeated with a serum? Instead of a weapon the operation of which depends on the blood chemistry of its targets, perhaps they should have just brought along nuclear warheads.

Anyway. Ro-Man tries to kill the last humans, but their tract house is defended by an invisible force field – so invisible in fact, that the filmmakers felt no need to represent it using special effects. The obvious question is, why does Ro-Man care that there are still six humans left on Earth? What could those six humans possibly do to harm him? They’re trapped behind their force field, stuck in a tract house!

In the end, Ro-Man falls in love with the last hot chick, despite the fact she’s a nearly hairless alien primate who doesn’t have the decency to wear a diving helmet. This is a common theme in stories about unsuccessful alien invasions – the aliens fall in love with humans because we’re so darned irresistible (see Robotech and the reimagined Battlestar Galactica). For some reason, it’s okay for Max to sleep with Miriya, or Helo to sleep with Athena, or Winona Ryder to sleep with Sarek – but if that guy in Clerks 2 bangs a donkey, it’s disgusting. Why is inter-species sex okay if it’s with aliens?

The Great Guidance is disgusted with this xenophilia, and destroys the Earth — humans, Ro-Man and all. This raises two questions. One, if you’re willing to destroy the Earth, why bother to selectively wipe out humans first? And second, if The Great Guidance can blow up the Earth from his throne room on the alien home world, then why send Ro-Man in the first place?

If you’ve seen this movie, you know that at the end it all turns out to have been a dream, Bobby Ewing/St. Elsewhere style, which cinema experts all agree if the worst possible way to end a movie. Well, except an ending where you gratuitously kill off Book and Wash.

No, I'm not too busy to flirt with you! I'm just running the whole damn Borg Collective!

No, I'm not too busy to flirt with you! I'm just running the whole damn Borg Collective!

7.) Star Trek: First Contact, 1996; Star Trek, 2009

While probably the best of the Next Generation films, First Contact is riddled with silly plot elements. The only one we’ll worry about here is the Borg plan to finally defeat humanity once and for all. (No other species had been able to withstand the Borg – humans are just that special.)

The Borg, apparently frustrated that resistance has in fact not been futile, decide to attack the Earth directly. There are millions, maybe billions of Borg Cubes out there, but the Borg are feeling economical and decide to send only one. Despite their far superior scientific and technical knowledge, the Borg have apparently forgotten that Jean-Luc Picard, the former Locutus of Borg, can psychically locate all the defensive weaknesses in a Borg Cube. (It was established in the first Borg episode that Borg Cubes are too undifferentiated to have defensive weaknesses, but whatever.)

The Enterprise-D destroys the Cube, so the Borg go to Plan B – travel back in time and assimilate Earth in the 21st Century. Time travel in the Star Trek universe is ridiculously easy, so one wonders why no one ever tried this before. Picard and his crew go back in time and, taking advantage of certain long-standing tactical weaknesses on the part of the Borg, save humanity.

What tactical weaknesses?

1.) Well, there’s the aforementioned only bringing one Cube, instead of two, or 20, or 10,000. That’s a biggie.

2.) The Borg ignore any individual alien who isn’t currently threatening them, which means you can beam onto a Borg Cube and walk around freely, as long as you don’t touch anything. This is a very poor security philosophy.

3.) The Borg need only to destroy Zephram Cochrane’s warp ship. Yet they waste time and resources invading the Enterprise and assimilating its crew, trying to assimilate Commander Data, and building a transmitter to phone home. Here’s a tip for the Borg Queen: blow up the Phoenix, blow up the Enterprise, and then spend the next 500 years leisurely doing whatever else you feel like.

This explains why Admiral Janeway is able to single-handedly destroy the Borg Collective in the last episode of Voyager. Apparently, one of the things the Borg assimilated from thousands of conquered races across the galaxy was the ubiquitous humanoid trait of bone-headedness.

Lots of starship captains have scepters!

Lots of starship captains have scepters!

Note: Star Trek (2009), Watchmen (2009) spoilers ahead!

On a side note, in J. J. Abrams’ generally excellent film Star Trek, the Romulan Nero takes advantage of an accidental time travel incident to try to destroy the Federation. He makes several idiotic errors that doom his scheme:

1.) He waits around for 25 years until Spock arrives from the future, as Nero wants Nimoy/Spock to witness the obliteration of the planet Vulcan. One assumes that Nimoy/Spock would have been just as unhappy with his home world’s destruction if Nero had destroyed it at once. Anyway, this is a common supervillain blunder, requiring the hero to be present at the moment of triumph. Nero should have taken notes from Ozymandius.

2.) Nero seems to think that you can’t destroy a planet with a black hole unless you drill a hole to the planet’s core first. Believe me, just toss a singularity in the general direction of a planet and a few minutes later, you won’t have a planet anymore. Compare Nero to Gran Moff Tarkin – when Tarkin wants a planet destroyed, he just destroys it. No gloating, no fuss.

John, you'd better check that e-meter...

John, you'd better check that e-meter...

6.) Battlefield Earth (2000)

I have already dissected and ridiculed Battlefield Earth in great detail here. But to recap – if you’re going to invade the Earth and enslave its population, don’t leave advanced alien military technology lying around unguarded. Also, if the atmosphere of your home world can be destroyed by a single nuclear explosion, don’t put warheads and interplanetary teleport devices where humans can get at them. Also, don’t put Vinnie Barbarino in charge.

Ziggy Stardust meets "V."

Ziggy Stardust meets"V."

5.) The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)

The Man Who Fell to Earth is a funky 70s cult adaptation of Walter Tevis’ classic sci-fi novel. Although far, far better than Robot Monster, it follows the same idea that aliens would send a single individual to invade the Earth.

There are certainly differences. The alien, Thomas Jerome Newton, is attempting to bring to Earth the last remnants of his ancient race, which is just a few hundred people. The aliens don’t really intend to “invade” the Earth, except insofar as they want to colonize Earth secretly and without permission. Then they hope to live in peace with humanity.

Also, there is a good reason they only send one invader – they don’t have the ability to send anyone else, as their civilization has collapsed. Newton’s plan is to patent advanced alien technology, make a billion bucks, and then build a spaceship that can fly home, pick everyone up, and bring them back.

Unfortunately, Newton blows the whole scheme by letting his friends know he’s an alien. His girlfriend (inter-species sex again!) freaks out and dumps him, and his supposed best friend Judases him out to the Feds.

The government kidnaps Newton and “accidentally” blinds him, leaving him powerless to complete his mission. It was a weak and pathetic plan that fails weakly and pathetically.

I bring you a message from the White People of the galaxy!

I bring you a message from the White People of the galaxy!

4.) The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

Here’s another so-called classic that I have already eviscerated. But to recap: A single alien invader named Klaatu, accompanied only by his giant robot friend Gort, has a message to deliver to the nations of the world, preferably through the United Nations. So of course he lands in Washington, DC, which is not where the UN is located. The US government thinks he’s a Communist, and won’t listen to him. Nor has Klaatu apparently ever heard of television.

Instead of delivering his message, perhaps by flying around the world in his saucer and speaking to individual leaders, or by showing up at the actual UN, or by using television (did I mention that in 1951, people had television? They also had this advanced technology called radio. And telephones. And the US Postal Service…), Klaatu spends most of the movie hanging out with a widow and her young son. Why? I don’t know.

Klaatu gets killed and brought back to life, and at the very end of the movie delivers his message, which is that the Earth is to be monitored by giant alien robots, and will be destroyed if humans show any signs of hostility. Then he leaves. The end.

The invasion plan (send giant alien robots to rule over humanity) actually goes without a hitch, as there’s nothing humanity can do to stop it. But the rest of the plan is just stupid. Klaatu never had to land or leave his saucer. He could just broadcast a message, and then pull the whole “cancel all the Earth’s electricity” trick to prove he’s serious. No one gets hurt, and Patricia Neal gets to marry her evil dick boyfriend.

Which brings us to…

Dude, I was totally supposed to bring you this message, but now I totally forgot what it was. Are you holding?

Dude, I was totally supposed to bring you this message, but now I totally forgot what it was. Are you holding?

3.) The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

If there was any film that could benefit from a remake, it was The Day the Earth Stood Still. Unfortunately, the new version is just a dumb as the old one, albeit in different ways.

This time, Klaatu actually lands in New York, near the UN. He is kidnapped by the government, where he meets Jennifer Connelly. With her help, Klaatu escapes and meets with an alien spy. Gort gets locked in a missile silo. Grey goo threatens the world. Klaatu stops the goo and dies.

Um.. what?

The only part of the plan that makes sense is the hanging out with Jennifer Connelly part. Even a cloned space alien portrayed by a closeted gay actor would want to date Jennifer Connelly.

The alien plan is this: humans are destroying Earth’s precious ecosystem, and this upsets the aliens, so the aliens decide to annihilate the ecosystem — all of it, rendering Earth uninhabited. Yes, really.

Sure, afterward they will recreate Earth’s biosphere using samples collected by Klaatu. But seriously, kill every living thing on Earth in order to save every living thing on Earth (except humans)? Why not just kill the humans?

Once again, Earth is saved by human-alien bumpty-humpty. Well, not really — Klaatu and Jennifer Connelly never do it, because Keanu Reeves is no longer permitted to film sex scenes after Matrix Reloaded. But Klaatu decides to save humanity because Jennifer Connelly was so nice to him. And somehow, this failure to destroy the Earth is going to be accepted by the other aliens? But dudes, Jennifer Connelly is smoking hot! Whoa!

Hey, have you seen my contact lens?

Hey, have you seen my contact lens?

2.) The War of the Worlds (1953), The War of the Worlds (2005), Independence Day (1996)

When H.G. Wells published The War of the Worlds in 1898, the way in which the aliens were defeated was novel and clever. Now, not so much.

In the 1953 film, Martians send hundreds of their Tripod killing machines to Earth, and start systematically wiping out cities. Humanity tries nukes, but the Tripods have impenetrable force shields. That’s the whole plan, really.

Unfortunately, it never occurs to the Martians that they might be vulnerable to Earth diseases, so they fail to wear space suits, or seal the airlocks on their tripods, or filter their air, or get vaccinations; and all the aliens die from a virus. Through an incredible stroke of luck, the aliens don’t bring with them (intentionally or unintentionally) any Martian viruses, so humanity is saved. Hooray!

After falling in love with a human, the second most popular example of alien invader stupidity is forgetting to invent the space suit.

The film also suggests that prayer helped defeat the aliens, which is total bullshit.

Must... have... Nyquil Cold & Sinus...

Must... have... Nyquil Cold & Sinus...

Steven Spielberg’s 2005 version, which I enjoyed quite a bit, is pretty much the same, which is why it doesn’t get its own entry on this list. This time the Martian tripods have been buried in the Earth’s crust for thousands of years. This weirdness is never explained, although I guess we could come up with a variety of ways to retcon it.

In this film the aliens bring along H.G. Wells’ Red Weed, although apparently this rapidly-growing plant requires human blood in order to grow. How amazing that something which evolved to feed on human blood did that evolving on Mars. (I know, it could have been genetically engineered. But when all the humans are dead, how will the Martians feed it?)

Again, the aliens forget to invent the space suit, and Earth viruses kill them and their Red Weeds. The film possibly hints at a reason – when we see the actual Martians, they look and act like children. Are the invaders the descendants of a once proud but fallen race, like Thomas Jerome Newton? Have they forgotten to wear space suits, or maybe they just can’t read the instructions? Or perhaps those were highly intelligent, adult Martians with giant eyes, who idiotically forgot about communicable diseases.

Now, when I say "go," you press Apple+Shift+V...

Now, when I say "go," you press Apple+Shift+V...

The 1996 alien invasion film Independence Day attempts a clever riff on the War of the Worlds’ defeat-by-virus theme, but in this case, instead of never inventing space suits (the aliens do have those), they never invent Norton Anti-Virus. Somehow, genius cable repairman Jeff Goldblum is able to create a computer virus that shuts down the aliens’ force shields. Yes, Goldblum had access to decades worth of alien research from Area 51, but still – infecting the alien computer system with a virus using a Mac Powerbook?

A note to all alien invaders – update your virus definitions and employ a decent firewall. A decent IT department is the key to any interplanetary invasion. And for chrissakes, get vaccinated!

I am sure glad God is going to save us from these evil aliens He created...

I am sure glad God is going to save us from these evil aliens He created...

1.) Signs (2002)

The alien invasion plan in M. Night Shyamalamahammy’s Signs is the granddaddy of all idiotic alien invasion plans. (No, I am not making fun of Indian people and their names. I am making fun of M. Night Shamalamadingdong and his stage name – his real name is Manoj Nelliyattu Shyamalan.)

Let me just say that I really enjoyed Signs. Seriously. I enjoyed it so thoroughly in fact, that I was out of the theater before I realized hey wait a minute – that made no sense whatsoever!

Here’s the alien plan:

Step 1: Communicate our plans for invasion by creating crop circles. Everyone knows that cerealogical communication is far superior to such primitive methods as radio waves.

Step 2: Jump around on people’s roofs, and disturb their birthday parties.

Step 3: Be completely unaware of how to open a door. Make sure you have no weapons, or other devices that might help you open a door. Breaking windows is also taboo.

Step 4: Knock humans unconscious with the gas our alien bodies produce, and drag them to our invisible saucers, presumably to eat them. Or probe them anally. Or suck out their blood and feed it to the Red Weed. Whatever.

Step 5: ???

Step 6: Profit!

But the most important part of the aliens’ plan is this: Our bodies react to water as if it were acid. So when invading a planet which is 70% covered with water, the atmosphere of which contains water, so much so that the water forms clouds and precipitation, absolutely do not wear any protective clothing or gear whatsoever. I’m sure that if humans ever visited a planet with methane seas and a methane atmosphere, they’d just run around naked like we’re doing.

Be sure to check out my series on the Ten Worst Sci-Fi Films of All Time!

My Five Favorite Comedy Sketches (After the Parrot Sketch)

The Story of the Story of the Story of EverestFor no particular reason, here are my five all-time favorite comedy sketches (not including the Parrot Sketch, because that’s everyone’s favorite):

5.) UK Comic Relief 2007: Catherine Tate & David Tenant

4.) The Kids in the Hall, Citizen Kane

3.) Monty Python’s Flying Circus: Mr. Smoke-too-much

2.) Mr. Show, The Story of the Story of the Story of Everest

1.) Monty Python’s Flying Circus: The Cheese Shop (original broadcast version, live version)

The Ten Most Common Supervillian Blunders

As the creator of VillainSupply, I know a lot about villains.

And yet, villains never ask me for advice. What’s up with that?

Here are the ten most common supervillain blunders. Eliminate these mistakes, and someday soon, you will RULE THE MISERABLE EARTH!

Lex Luthor10. Basing your evil activities on some ancient grievance or outmoded ideology. What, you’re “evil” because your hair fell out? Because that middle school tramp turned you down? Because you’re albino, or scarred, or have a hook for a hand? Please. You need a therapist, not an evil empire. And Communism? Fascism? Nationalism? Capitalism? Dianetics? These are all outmoded 20th Century ideologies, and they’ve all failed. Only one ideology will reign supreme in the new millennium: Global Domination!

9. Becoming friends with your “good” counterpart. Some foolish villains decide to befriend the very man or woman out to destroy their dreams of Global Domination. Do not respect your enemy. Do not allow him or her to find your lair so you can chat. Don’t ask them to join you, so that together you may rule the world. “Honor” is a hero’s weakness; don’t fall prey to it yourself.

8. Holding the world for ransom. So you’re going to blow up the Earth unless they pay you 400 trillion dollars. How the hell are you going to launder 400 trillion dollars? If you want to get rich, invest in stocks. If you want to take over the world, establish a worldwide cabal of intimidation and terror. And if you want to blow up the Earth, just blow it up. The U.N. can’t pay its own bills, much less give you 400 trillion dollars. It’s a rookie mistake.

7. Hatching an inflexible or overly complicated scheme. Does your plan for world domination require a single unique device, artifact, or crystal without which you will fail? Then it’s a bad plan. Does your plan require ten thousand henchmen, organized cells around the globe, the replacement of six of the seven G7 delegates with robot duplicates, and a coordinated global effort in conjunction with an alignment of the planets or the end of the Incan calendar? Then your plan is too complicated. Simplify. It’s the evil, stupid.

6. Trusting your henchmen. Don’t. They’re all idiots. And if you must hire scientists, or assassins, or butlers or bodyguards or sous chefs, be prepared to kill them all at a moment’s notice. Remember, you’re the god.

5. Trusting your femmes fatale. Oh sure, they’re perfectly loyal to you, sitting around your lagoon in gold lamé bikinis, seducing and murdering your enemies, and pleasuring you in sick and perverted ways in your private suite. But then some handsome government agent comes along, and the next thing you know, your beautiful female underling with the risqué name is helping the agent find your obvious and accessible self-destruct button. This is why I recommend that every woman in your employ get a gift: a dainty gold necklace containing a remote-controlled explosive charge.

4. Having an affectation. Your precious Persian kitty, your taste for wines from a specific French vineyard, your third nipple – they all serve to identify you or your lair to agents of “good.” And you look like an idiot in that Nehru jacket.

3. Explaining your plan to the “hero.” Sure, you’re impressed by your own genius – who wouldn’t be? But by giving your opponent an idea of what you’re up to, you are just insuring your own downfall. Keep your plans a secret.

2. Letting “heroes” near your obvious and accessible self-destruct button. Every villain needs one of these, of course, for obvious reasons not worth going into. But it’s up to YOU to keep some do-gooder from getting his or her hands on it.

1. Not simply killing the “hero.” No death traps, no female assassins, no scorpions in the hotel room. And for crissakes, don’t offer dinner or entertainment in your lair. Just shoot him in the head. One 9mm round to the forehead. Done. Corpses can’t sneak around your lair or base, looking for that obvious and accessible self-destruct button.