Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Energy Bracelet Experience

I’ve spoken before about the energy balance bracelets and how they don’t work. I just had an experience at a local flower show where I ran into a vendor of the bracelets. He enthusiastically invited me to a demonstration, exactly like the demos I’d seen before. He was even cooperative when I asked to do the demonstration on him. When I proceeded to knock him over while he was wearing the bracelet (he claimed that I was pushing outward) and failed to knock him over when he wasn’t (he claimed I was pushing inward), he didn’t look too happy. When I pointed out that that was how it worked, he started trying to quote studies, and I amiably walked away.

I am not sure what the best thing to do with these people. I thought about doing what Richard Saunders does, and wear 10 of them (buying them in bulk) and handing them out with a demonstration. That might get me thrown out. Someone suggested I contact the media, a month or so ahead of time for the flower show, and get them to do an investigative piece. Another thing I may do is, if they are willing, is to suggest a very simple blinded experiments. The nice thing about the balance bracelets is that they claim some very simple, reproducible effects. As a result, it is pretty easy to test it in the confines of a vendor booth at a flower show. I will need to come prepared with two identical little bags, and a fake bracelet, in order to do the test. Also, if they claim improved balance, it’d be nice to have a balance test where the the seller is not involved...something like a balance beam, perhaps. I feel confident that I can be a real pain, yet not involve lawyers, in a case like this.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Religion, Scripture, and the Source of Morality

It is a common argument now from the so-called new atheists that we don’t get our morality from scripture. I am not sure that many religious people, even biblical literalists, would defend such a in a way it really is a strawman. Francis Collins, following CS Lewis, place morality front and center in their justification for their belief in God, but at no time do they say that it comes from scripture. They claim that morality is, in essence, programmed into us as a gift from the divine creator. The universality of altruism is used in an argument from Collins for a behavior that cannot be selected for, and is thus an indication of a supernatural, moral creator. He never once says that the morality comes from scripture. Seen in this way, then scripture forms a guide which may need to be interpreted for the changing times, even if you are a literalist. I think it would be wiser for the new atheists to ask if scripture can even be a good guide for behavior, without hammering the (strawman) point that scripture is not the source of morality.

Perhaps they should poll their audience on the question of where they believe morality comes from. If a significant fraction states that it comes from scripture, then it no longer is a strawman. I just don’t think it would come out that way.