Does Believing In Spirits Make You Mentally Incompetent?

A woman in South Australia who murdered her two-year-old son because she believed he was “possessed by evil spirits” was found “not guilty of his murder due to mental incompetence” and has now been released. I can only assume she no longer believes in evil spirits. The media have conveniently omitted what religion she belongs to.

My question is this: what made her mentally incompetent?

Is it the believing in evil spirits or the murdering of her son?

It can’t be the murder aspect. If you believe in evil spirits and you are convinced that your son is possessed by them, wouldn’t murdering him be a rational response? That would make you competent.

I can only conclude that the court found that the mental incompetence was regarding the believing in evil spirits in the first place. And if believing in evil spirits makes you mentally incompetent, surely believing in good spirits holds equal stead?

Personally I agree – believing in spirits makes you kooky.

I meet people all the time who believe in evil spirits and are walking around in the community.

Not just Christians, either – Hindus, New Agers, Mahayana Buddhists, etc.

Now if all of these people living in society are mentally incompetent – for the same reasons as the woman from South Australia – what is to be done? I’m being serious. What should we do when, say, 80% of the population is defined (by the legal system, no less) as mentally incompetent? Should we mandate psychiatric help for them? I realise that not all of them are dangerous – but some obviously are and as a direct result of this belief in evil spirits.

What about politicians who believe, such as Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey? Should people who are mentally incompetent be allowed to work in politics? Should they allowed to be CEOs of companies? Should they be allowed to be parents?

These questions will keep me up at night.

No Illusions Podcast #47 – I Can Haz Higgs Boson?

My first podcast in several months is a bit of a rant and a bit of science – a basic primer to help you understand yesterday’s announcement of the discovery at CERN of a “Higgs-like particle” and a rant on why it’s important that we all try to understand the basics of physics and the hard sciences. I’m so sick of the MSM dumbing down announcements like this and I was hugely disappointed last night to see even the host of the 7:30 Report asking dumb questions. The internet is supposed to make us SMARTER, not DUMBER, people.

News Corp’s Anti-Science Agenda

“Big Bang Theory a Bust” is the way News Corp is peddling this two-year old story about Roger Penrose’s “Conformal Cyclic Cosmology” model for explaining concentric circles of cosmic background radiation. Why run the story two years late? I have no idea. But it’s the headline that is the true story.

It’s obviously written by a sub-editor to a) be sensationalist and b) discredit science in the minds of the general public. I’ve already seen people in Facebook picking up the story and using it to start discussions about how science is equal to faith.

Very similar to the HeraldSun’s approach to the now-discredited neutrino experiments out of CERN last year.

Sensationalist and anti-science. Of course, any intelligent person understands that the scientific method is a process of refinement – one experiment or, in Penrose’s case, theory, in no way “upends” or “busts” anything, especially not time-tested theories such as the Big Bang or the speed of light being the speed limit for relativity.

But I’m pretty sure News Corp cares not about such things as accuracy. It’s about sensationalist yellow journalism and trying to discredit science. Why would they want to discredit science? Because it helps them rally the Christian Right vote. Fox News has turned itself into a profitable political power house in the USA by pandering to the Christian Right, anti-science demographic and it looks like News International wants to try the same trick here in Oz.

Seth MacFarlane To Bring Back COSMOS!

I can’t tell you how excited I am about this news!

I’m a huge fan of the original COSMOS series by Carl Sagan. It had a huge impact on me as a kid when it first aired on TV in Australia and these days I own a copy of the series on DVD. Sagan paved the way for people like Brian Greene and Neil DeGrasse Tyson and for podcasts like Radio Lab and SGU.

We desperately need the younger generation to truly understand and appreciate science and the power of the scientific method. Hopefully Seth (who I’m also, of course, a huge fan of) can make this happen, although FOX seems like a very strange network to try to get it up on. He obviously has a good relationship with them, but c’mon – the network of O’Reilly, Glen Beck, Roger Ailes and the network who killed Firefly? Are they really going to get on board with promoting science?

(Source: Universe Today)

No Time Like This Time

Science nerd that I am, I’m often trying to convince people that time doesn’t exist.

In 1952, in his book Relativity, Einstein writes:
Since there exists in this four dimensional structure [space-time] no longer any sections which represent “now” objectively, the concepts of happening and becoming are indeed not completely suspended, but yet complicated. It appears therefore more natural to think of physical reality as a four dimensional existence, instead of, as hitherto, the evolution of a three dimensional existence.

When his lifelong friend Besso died, Einstein wrote a letter to Besso’s family, saying that although Besso had preceded him in death it was of no consequence, “…for us physicists believe the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one.”

This idea of no past and no future ties in nicely with non-dualistic philosophy (see The Advaita Show) and actually has major consequences for how we live our lives. If the future has already happened, what’s the point worrying about it? That’s part of the LOTU philosophy I’ve been developing.

If you don’t believe me (or Einstein), try to wrap your mind around this news:

Astronomers have pushed NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to its limits by finding what is likely to be the most distant object ever seen in the universe. The object’s light traveled 13.2 billion years to reach Hubble, roughly 150 million years longer than the previous record holder. The age of the universe is approximately 13.7 billion years.

The tiny, dim object is a compact galaxy of blue stars that existed 480 million years after the big bang. More than 100 such mini-galaxies would be needed to make up our Milky Way. The new research offers surprising evidence that the rate of star birth in the early universe grew dramatically, increasing by about a factor of 10 from 480 million years to 650 million years after the big bang.

Here’s a great video that zooms into the sky to show you the location of the galaxy:

So here’s the deal: when astronomers look into the Hubble at this object, they are looking back into time. Their “present” co-exists with an event that happened 13 billion years ago. From that galaxy’s perspective, circa 13 billion years ago, we would be in their future. Their “past” is our present. And we won’t be able to see that galaxy’s present (what’s happening on it right now our time) for another 13 billion years, so that means they are in OUR future.


The same thing happens on a smaller scale when two people are standing in a room together. If one says “let’s both lift our hands when I say ‘now’… “NOW!”” – here’s what happens. When Person A speaks the word “NOW!”, it takes a fraction of a second before Person B actually hears the words or sees their lips move, because that’s how long it takes for the light and sound waves to travel. Person B’s awareness of the Person A’s “now” is actually in that Person A’s past. So Person B’s idea of “now” and Person B’s idea of “now” are actually different. That’s because they both occupy different points in space-time and so their points of reference are slightly different.

So… no past, no future.

What are you doing to do now?