Saturday, April 30, 2016

Flat Earth Misconceptions

I'm so tired of repeating myself to Flat-Earthers. It's like they revel in doing their math wrong, but there's not enough characters in twitter to send them the proper equations. So I'll address a few classic pics here to explain how it's done.

The distant mountain picture

This is a favorite among flat-earthers, and it's pretty easy to show they get the math wrong.  Someone told this guy that he can use a simple linear fit for earth's CURVED surface (8 inches per mile or some such tripe). I'm not sure where this approximation came from, but it obviously doesn't fit a curve very well. Anyhow, here's an example:

Here, we have the classic flat-earther example of a "mountain that's too far away to see." First, let's check the facts. After a bit of digging, I figured out that they're claiming this is Mt. Denali.  That's 140 miles away, with an elevation of roughly 20,000 ft.

It's actually 700 ft at the summit of the Hilltop Ski Resort, but it turns out that won't matter in the end.  
Anyhow, let's assume they're right and it's Denali.  First, calculate the distance and angle to the horizon from an elevation of 700 ft.  I'll let WikiHow explain how to do it. I'm using the arccos formula: 

$ d = r  \arccos(\frac{r}{r+h}) $

The horizon from Hilltop is calculated here at 32 miles.
The horizon from Denali is calculated here at 174 miles.

Suppose the picture were taken from the parking lot of Hilltop instead of the top.  The horizon is still 27.5 miles away, well within the range of Denali's summit. 

32 + 174 means you can see the tip of Denali from as far as 206 mi at an altitude of 700 ft (assuming there's no mountains in between and neglecting atmospheric lensing, of course). This is obviously not a problem for observation from 140 miles away.

Just for convenience, we could figure out how tall an object needs to be to see it from a distance, x. We simply add the horizon distance to the solution to our first equation for h:

$ \cos( \frac{d}{r} ) = \frac{r}{r+h} $

$ h = \frac{r}{cos(\frac{d}{r})} - r $

d = 140-32 = 108
h = 7700 ft tall. 

This means we should be able to see the top 12,300 of Denali. 

Time Zone Solar Models

This is another flat earther hand-waving explanation for time-zones.  

Even the most casual thought regarding this picture and you'll realize that since the sun is above a flat earth, you'll be able to see it at all times from any location on earth. Turn this model on its side and draw a vector from any point on earth to the sun and you'll see that it never sets.  The figure below shows this and explains the problems.

If there's some other way to interpret the animation above, I sure can't think of it.  Send me a comment or tweet to help me understand.
I'm left wondering if flat earthers lack all spatial reasoning. It sure seems that way.

Pilots Would End up in Space!

This one is so bizarre that it takes a little work to wrap your head around.  Essentially, the argument is that airline pilots would need to adjust their elevation by 1 degree every 6 or 7 minutes to keep from climbing higher and higher and crash into the firmament or flying into space.  There's some specious assumptions here:
  • That airplanes fly along laser-like straight lines
  • Airplanes will continue climbing at the same rate for a given angle of attack even as the air thins.
  • That the pilot has the sensitive equipment to recognize one-degree drift over 6 minutes
In the same way as you might make minor course corrections along a straight road to keep your car centered in your lane, the autopilot (or the real pilot) is constantly adjusting to maintain a reasonably constant altitude and heading.  These corrections are happening at a rate of tens to hundreds per minute.  To the pilot or autopilot, this feels like maintaining altitude.  In reality, it's conforming the flight to the curvature of earth.  This publication described the typical roughness of a commercial flight.  I've pulled out the "rough cruise" section because the constant readjustment of altitude is more clearly apparent.  Same thing happens in "smooth cruise", but more gradually.

Simple computer models can help us understand when and where we'll be able to observe curvature of a sphere.  The key factors which affect the appearance of curvature are:

  • Altitude above the surface
  • Camera Focal Length (or field of view)
  • Radius of the sphere
I'm sure someone could write an expression  for the apparent curvature versus these parameters, but it's easier to just show you. I'm using an open-source tool called Celestia which accurately presents the position, sizes, and velocities of celestial objects.  I highly recommend it. It's fun to play with.

Changing the Field of View

Here's the  same view as the Field of View is altered.  This is like zooming out on your camera.  The FOV is reported in the bottom-right while the location (constant) is presented in the upper-left.

Changing the Altitude

This one is a little more obvious.  As you move to higher and higher altitudes, the curvature becomes more apparent.
Note that the Distance is 30 km. That's a decimal place, not a comma.

Radius Matters Too

This one is just for fun.  Here's some spheres of different radii from the same distance.

Mythbusters are shills?

Well, as we've shown, the curvature isn't expected to be visible at low altitudes. Here's Adam Savage  at a 12 mile altitude witnessing the curvature for himself.  So I suppose he's got to be a liar now, eh?

The Moon / Spinning Earth can't be felt!

Moon: The gravitational acceleration of the moon on the surface of earth is given by $ a = G m_{moon}/r^2 $ or roughly $ 3.6 \times 10^{-5}  m/s^2  $ compared to the $ 9.8  m/s^2 $ I measured in high school for earth's gravity.  That's less than one part in a million.  A hard thing to measure.

Rotation: The acceleration of an object on the equator due to circular motion from the rotation of the earth is given by: $ a = \omega^2 / r $.  This also tiny at $ 0.034 m/s^2 $. This effect (0.34%) MIGHT be measurable by exceptionally sensitive equipment and a skilled scientist, but these are the sorts of people the Flat Earth crowd seems to consider untrustworthy.
Edit: I fixed my math above. Rotation is actually much more important than I originally calculated. Thanks to @TheOlifant for catching my error:


The mentality of flat-earthers seems to be very similar to that of anti-vaxers and deeply religious.  The believer thinks they've figured out that most of humanity is wrong, and that their answer is the right answer. They often tell you to "research it," and couple commands with insults "stupid" or "dummy" or "sheep." 
These believers think they've figured out what "they" don't want you to know.  The "they" varies between people, but it seems to be illuminati, the government, or the Free Masons. For devout Christians or Muslims, the "they" is Satan, heretics, or demons.  
These believers pride themselves in being different. They think they're visionaries for knowing the truth when everyone else has it wrong.  Despite having no formal training in the specific scientific claims they reject, they feel sure that all the professional scientists have been deceived by the "they."
What's particularly interesting is that these people seem to blindly follow (IMO obvious) quacks. Some guy with a YouTube channel is seen as more reliable than all the world's scientists. They wave off these brilliant scientists by presuming they've never actually TESTED any of the claims they learned in science text books without seeming to notice that:

  1. The YouTube quack has never tested his flat earth claims. At best their "evidence" seems to be that they find actual physics hard to understand or inconsistent with scripture.
  2. Scientists actually do verify the basics. They build more complex experiments on top of them, so if the basics weren't right, nothing would work.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A quick review of the usual apologetics

A Christian apologetic video called "10 INCREDIBLE BIBLE FACTS to blow your mind" was posted to the "Philosophy of Religion" G+ Group.  Bible click-bait is not "Philosophy of Religion."  But I took the time to respond anyways.

1: So what? Harry Potter sold a lot of books too.  Doesn't make it true.

2: Lots of authors, but "the Bible does not contradict itself" Yes. It does.  Lots. There are whole indices of the contradictions.
But even if it were, a cursory understanding of how the Bible was formed (by committee, from a much larger set of texts) shows that it could be just good editing, not good writing.

3: Again. So what? This is just false. Book of Mormon says that god said things too.

4: What a cute legend.

5. We're going down-hill here. This is pretty wildly speculative and vague. I wrote a blog about how this sort of post-hoc rationality works. The prophecies of Dr. Seuss
"Jesus is Coming Back Soon." This has been the Christian claim

6. The Bible is true?! LMFAO. Where are the four corners of the earth? Stop pretending a circle is the same as a sphere.
Wow. Look under the water and you can see rocky formations that resemble what's over the land.
You're doing science just like the Muslims do it!
   Step 1: Look at what's real.
  Step 2: Find places where the Bible can be interpreted to suggest those things.

7. Ha ha ha. So there's some facts which agree with history? I'll defer to the usual "Spider Man happens in New York, but it doesn't make Spider Man true."
The Biblical writings are "viable"?  Might not be false isn't a very good basis.

8. Accurate to what?!  Oh. The disagreements between different scribes are "minor" in the opinion of some biblical historians? The 31,000

9. Methamphetamine has also changed people's lives.  People who use it are transformed. They become committed to methamphetamine.  Does that make it true?  The video goes on to cite a few anecdotes about people who were born and raised Christian, then happened to do good things anyways.  Lots of people find Jesus at their lowest -- because that's when they're most vulnerable to indoctrination.

10. There's a corrupted Bible? God hasn't protected "his word" very well, eh?  Imagine if that happened EARLY in the Bible's history. The result would be an unreliable Bible today!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

I Don't Understand What You Think God Is. And Neither do You

What is God?

This is definitely not God.
Ask google, and you'll be flooded with thousands of sites which exude confidence. But dig a little deeper and you'll see that they're peddling platitudes.
God is the creator of mankind and He loves you.
You were created by Him and He knows everything about you.
Note: Some of them seem to have identical content: and haha.
The site contains claims about the things we ought to credit god with, but not a single observable property of this god.
  • “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’” (John 14:6).
  • “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17).
  • “You have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:15-16).
  • “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (John 1:18).
  • “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27).

These are presented by one of the more credible articles as "very logical answers to what is God, and what is He doing." Yet even the most cursory review and it's clear that they're empty dogmatic claims, not observable properties of a anything.

You don't know either

So here's the hard point. Not only are Christian apologetics and ministries unable to articulate any tangible properties of their god, but neither are you. Most Christians think of god as a personality they can interact with and a place-holder for the unanswerable questions of the universe.  But can you identify any tangible properties? Before you get angry, consider some practical questions:
  • If a person introduced themselves as god, how would you know if they're lying or honest? 
  • When a fortunate event occurs to you or a loved one, how can you tell if it's an action  of a god or just good fortune?
  • Suppose find yourself in a place devoid of features. There's a person-like entity there which knows your name and speaks to you. The implication is that you've died and are in some sort of afterlife. The usual cues are missing.   No puffy clouds and halos, no firey pits and horns.  How do you determine if the entity is a god or a demon?
  • That voice in your mind seems to always know what you need to hear. How can you tell if it's a god or just your own imagination?
In short, there's no good way to tell whether these characters are gods or someone else. I don't understand what you think god is, and neither do you.


In researching this post, I came across this post, which starts out surprisingly well. It's not the usual hateful misrepresentation of atheists. But it makes the usual mistakes regarding their own beliefs. Once they start describing the Bible, the claims quickly go from "the authors said" to "it's true."  Here's the paragraph where it happens:
There is a book that has existed longer than the philosophies of materialism and humanism. Those who wrote this book claimed that they were personally in contact with the one, true Creator God. They say, in fact, that this God actually inspired what they wrote, and they claimed to know Him personally. Furthermore, they wrote that God has a plan—a purpose—for each human life. They claimed that what they wrote in this book called the Bible is truth—from the God of truth. They staked their lives on it! 
Another way to understand God is to be willing to take a close look at what He reveals about Himself in the only book that can be seen as a legitimate source of information about Him. Most people own a Bible, but most people—even Christians—have never really honestly or thoroughly examined the Bible to see what it reveals about God. You will likely be very surprised to see what God says about Himself!
Oh well.  It's  a train-wreck from there.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Response to: Proof That The Bible Is True

@InspiredWalk posted the following:
So let's disassemble it point by point.

1. Written By Different Men Over 2000 Years

This got complicated in a hurry.  I'm going to color-code it for you.
Green will be for lies or baseless speculation.
Red will be for fallacies.
Purple will be for non-sequiturs.
The Bible is a collection of 66 books which were written by about 40 men over a period of 1500 years or more. Most of these authors had never physically met but yet their message in what they wrote is structured, consistent, accurate, inter-related and perfectly unified throughout. Though these writers physically penned the 66 books, the individual writers, at the time of writing, had no idea that their message was eventually to be incorporated into one single Book, that we know today as being The Bible.
Interestingly (as we keep in mind the accuracy & consistency of their writings) these writers believed and claimed that they were writing or transmitting the very word of God – or that their writings were as a result of the inspiration of ONE single Supernatural Author – God Himself.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 – All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
All we need to is notice that the premise of this claim is laughably false.  The volume of work by Christian apologetics necessary to  "homogenize" the wildly inconsistent and inaccurate books of the bible show just how inconsistent it is.  The wide range of beliefs held by disparate groups, all of whom consider themselves Christians reinforces this fact.
But even if it were as consistent as the author of this blog claims, later authors clearly knew of earlier authors and shared a common religion with them.  Consistency is not without plausible naturalistic explanation.

2. The Scientific Accuracy of the Bible

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ow my sides hurt.

Another striking evidence of divine inspiration is found in the fact that many of the
principles of modern science were recorded as facts of nature in the Bible long before
scientist confirmed them experimentally.
A sampling of these would include:
  1. The Earth is round, not flat as once believed (Isaiah 40:22).
  2. Atmospheric circulation (Ecclesiastes 1:6).
  3. Field of Gravity (Job 26:7).
  4. Biological importance of blood to life (Leviticus 17:11,12).
  5. The Bible refers to dinosaurs. Job 40:15 and Job 41:1 speak of two such creatures.
 I've converted the original article claims to numbers so that I might taunt them one by one.
1. Isaiah 40:22 says nothing about a spherical earth.  Indeed, it puts "God" above the earth the heavens like a curtain over it.  If you understand basic geometry of a spherical earth, "above" is an irrelevant concept for a spherical earth. It ONLY makes sense for a flat earth.
Edit: original author implied that "God sits above the circle of the earth," a point long since refuted.
2. Wow. Winds blow.
3. "He stretches out the north over empty space; He hangs the earth on nothing."  has nothing to do with gravity as the author claimed.  I'm sensing a trend here.
4. I think ancient people understood that if you let the blood out of something, it dies. This is not modern scientific discovery.
5. Or … it speaks of monsters. See how that works? It didn't describe fossils, it described non-existent creatures just like other fairy tales.

3. Over 100 Prophetic Accuracies About Jesus Christ

This is called a Gish Gallop, and since the author doesn't bother to lay them all out, I'll simply point out that the Jews sure don't think that's true, and the Torah is their book so they should know.
The one consistent theme of the Bible, is that from Genesis to Revelation, the Bible consistently refers and prophesies about Jesus Christ who ultimately is mankind’s Lord & Saviour. There are over 300 specific prophecies in the Old Testament that are fulfilled in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the New Testament.

4. The Bible Is Endorsed by Jesus Christ

So we're to believe that Jesus endorsed a book which wouldn't exist for another 300 years after his death? LOL. 
Matthew 5:17-18 – (Jesus speaking) “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”When Jesus was on earth at the time, only the Old Testament existed. Jesus read and quoted from the Old Testament. Therefore if the Bible was inaccurate or untrustworthy, Jesus would have not quoted the Old Testament. When Jesus was tempted by the devil, Christ overcame the devil’s temptation by responding with Scripture quoted from the Old Testament. This was a clear indication not only of the authority and trustworthiness of the Bible but also that Jesus Himself was willing to be obedient to do what The Bible teaches.
READ Matthew 4:1-17
First, need to demonstrate that:

  • Jesus never quoted anything which contained any falsehood
  • Infallibility somehow provides a protective power against "devil temptation."

5. Its Survival

This whole claim doesn't even make sense.  Why would survival imply truth?
The Bible starting from Genesis has survived for over 1500 years. No other book has been so consistently studied, bought or quoted by mankind. Its teachings are still relevant even after 1000 years, a clear proof that God’s word is authoritative and does not change. No other book has been loved or hated as the Bible but yet it still survives and remains the highest seller among all books.
Matthew 24:35 – Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
Yup. Meaningless fluff that has absolutely no relation to the alleged conclusion (the Bible is True). I suppose we're to believe that its longevity implies some sort of magical protection from Yahweh, but even if that were true, it wouldn't demonstrate that Yahweh authored it or endorses it.

6. Archaeological Evidence

A number of archaeological and geographic evidences exist to prove the accuracy and historic truthfulness of the Bible. Archaeological discoveries have been made which verify the various Biblical stories and events mentioned in scripture.
Romans 1:20-21 – For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
This is the Composition / Division fallacy -- the belief that because some aspect of the Bible is true that this truthfulness somehow applies to the whole. Let's consider the following excerpt of mathematical equations I just made up.
  • 2 + 2 = 4
  • 2 + 2 = 4
  • 2 + 2 = 4
  • 2 + 2 = 4
  • 7 + 7 = 12
  • 2 + 2 = 4
  • 2 + 2 = 4
We observe that nearly all of the equations are true, but it's not at all safe to assume that this applies to all of the equations. 

7. Life Changing Power

For thousands of years, the Bible has changed countless lives and has provided a means by which mankind can know and understand who God is and what God says about every life situation that we face on this earth. The Bible also is one huge story about God’s relationship with man. The Bible speaks of God’s love and plan of salvation from sin through Jesus Christ. People of different backgrounds and beliefs can testify of the life changing experiences that God’s word has brought to their lives.
Hebrews 4:12-13 – For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Yup. Just more baseless speculation and dogmatic claims. No real substance. Even if the claims being made were true, it wouldn't demonstrate the truth of the Bible. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

God Doesn't Exist. Here's why.

Theists often ask me for proof that God doesn't exist. As if that's my claim or even a relevant question from an epistemological perspective.
One of my favorite memes when
theists ask for proof there's no god.

This is one of my favorite memes for such instances because it attempts to highlight the absurdity of their request. As Bertrand Russell showed with his celestial teapot thought experiment, it's not possible to falsify an unfalsifiable claim. Still, some particularly stubborn believers chose to focus on the choice of a unicorn rather than the logical failure it demonstrates.

So let's set formal epistemology aside.  These people clearly aren't asking for an epistemological demonstration of an unfalsifiable assertion. Let's just stick with colloquial usage. Consider the following simple questions:

  • Do fairies exist?
  • Do zombies exist?
  • Do elves exist?
  • Do vampires exist?
  • Do unicorns exist?
Most people have no problem answering these questions with a flat "no."  (I offer several in case you answer "yes" to one of them.) The basis for that "no" is the fact that there's no convincing evidence that one of these creatures exists and absent that evidence, it's almost certain that they don't actually exist.

From this point, it's pretty darn simple: 
God has all the same evidence as fairies, zombies, elves, vampires, and unicorns. 

Most people say no to any or all of those mythological creatures above. I say "No" to the question of god for the exact same reason.  

Does this mean I'm actively opposing evidence for god or spiritually blind? Not at all. I engage with discussions online openly and honestly looking for someone -- anyone with:
  • A clear definition of what their God is
  • A reasonable explanation of how they know it's real
Unfortunately, many people just get mad that I have the nerve to ask hard questions and challenge fallacious responses. But my interest in knowledge and  truth is sincere. That's why I had the courage to question Christianity and discover that my basis for belief was untenable.