Astronaut Claims UFOs Are Real, Government Conspiracy

July 24, 2008

Former Astronaut Dr. Edgar Mitchell claims that aliens are already among us. And that they’re, like, real tiny-like.

Dr Mitchell, 77, said during a radio interview that sources at the space agency who had had contact with aliens described the beings as ‘little people who look strange to us.’

He said supposedly real-life ET’s were similar to the traditional image of a small frame, large eyes and head.

Chillingly, he claimed our technology is “not nearly as sophisticated” as theirs and “had they been hostile”, he warned “we would be been gone by now”.

Well, that’s good, I suppose. As a person of short stature and large head myself, I’ve always prided myself on having superior technology.

Anyhoo, the biggest claim he makes is that he’s actually been briefed by the government on the existence of aliens. Well… maybe:

“It’s been well covered up by all our governments for the last 60 years or so, but slowly it’s leaked out and some of us have been privileged to have been briefed on some of it.

“I’ve been in military and intelligence circles, who know that beneath the surface of what has been public knowledge, yes – we have been visited. Reading the papers recently, it’s been happening quite a bit.”

The phrasing makes this confusing: in one case he says that he was briefed on aliens, presumably by the government. That’s a pretty incredible claim. But very quickly it sounds like he’s talking about basically just reading some “papers” out in the public (newspapers? tabloids? peer-reviewed journals?) that he interprets as alien encounters. The former is pretty darn important: potential evidence of a real government conspiracy. The latter is just the same old, same old UFO-ologist conspiracy theory stuff. It’s a rather odd transition.

Of course, maybe he’s just confused: maybe he was just briefed on hypotheticals and speculative xenobiology, back when the government still thought it possible that there could be Predators hiding out on the dark side of the moon, and figured they’d better prepare astronauts for anything.

If this guy wants to maintain some credibility, he’s going to have to cough up a lot more details than what he’s claimed so far.


Measles Making a Comeback as Vaccine-Hysteria Builds

July 16, 2008

Measles has already become a resurgent epidemic in England, and now, via Orac, I see that the once nearly-eradicated disease has gained a new foothold in the US as well: 127 cases since this May, springing up in 15 different states. According to the news coverage, that’s the largest spike in cases we’ve seen in a decade.

What gets me is that children in the Third World are literally dying in the hundreds of thousands because of lack of access to vaccines. It’s only here in the states that we even have the luxury to indulge in fact-free scare campaigns against vaccinations. Few people here have any sense of the real cost these sorts of diseases bring with them:

“What you have to remember is that 250,000 children die from this virus every year,” Alvarez added. “So, vaccinations have to be a priority for parents because at the end of the day if you get measles, you can live through it, but in some particular cases you’re going to have complications.”

About one in five measles sufferers experiences more severe illness, which can include diarrhea, ear infections, pneumonia, encephalitis, chronic neurological deficits and even death.

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds has a nice article summing up the problem for anyone not clear what the stakes are, and why the “anti-vaccination” movement is so potentially dangerous. Reynolds doesn’t mention, however, that his presumably preferred Presidential candidate, John McCain, is unfortunately pretty definitively on the wrong side of this issue.


Blog Shorts: Bush Smears Jefferson, Colson Smears Atheists, Cthulhu Smears Your Entrails Across Campaign Trail

July 5, 2008

The web is a wondrous place, isn’t it? From just the last week:

Ed Brayton and Timothy Sandefur catch George Bush “honoring” Thomas Jefferson by altering his actual words to avoid any hint of anti-religious opinions.

From the “Theists Are Far Ruder to Atheists than Atheists Could Be in Return” File comes Chuck Colson, the convicted felon who thinks he’s better than you. Hemant at the Friendly Atheist is having none of it. Hemant’s also not buying the idea that requiring students to actually act out Islamic prayers is a legitimate way to teach them about world religions, even if the teacher is a Christian.

Over at Catholic and Enjoying It, Mark Shea manages to be more far more outraged about a story in which Muslims are supposedly outraged by a puppy than anyone in the story is actually outraged. But he makes up for it by his hearty endorsement of Cthulhu’s 2008 run for the White House. No More Years!

And finally, Orac over at Respectful Insolence bemoans yet another loss to the forces of woo: apparently some states, with Vermont the most prominant amongst them, are starting to require insurance companies to pay for the “evidence-free medicine” of naturopathy. Lest you think that such errant nonsense couldn’t possibly hurt you, Orac points out that it’s a move that will kick you right in the pocketbook:

I don’t know about you, but if I were paying into an insurance plan, and the company administering that plan were wasting money paying for woo, I’d be mightily pissed. This can only serve to drive up the costs for everyone, as patients with non-self-limiting diseases pursue non-science-based modalities, think they feel better for a while, and then find that their disease is progressing, at which point they seek out science-based medical care–which their insurance companies will have to pay for, too.


FDA to Crack Down on Phony Cancer Cures?

June 17, 2008

Apparently the FDA has decided to start targeting internet businesses that have been making bogus medical claims about alt-med cancer cures. If so, it’s about time. I’m not against adults being allowed to imbibe whatever they want to believe will help cure them. I’d counsel strongly, strongly against it, but I don’t think it should be against the law. Companies, however, that prey on desperate folks like this deserve little mercy.

The letters criticized unproven claims made about these products including the ability to “destroy the enzyme on DNA responsible for cancer cells,” and the power to “neutralize” carcinogens. One product’s Web site had a testimonial claiming it had cured a patient’s skin cancer in three days, according to one of the letters.

I’m not even sure what “the enzyme on DNA responsible for cancer cells” is supposed to mean, exactly. I wouldn’t be surprised if the person who wrote it has no idea either. And that’s precisely what’s so screwed up about this entire market. While I’m sure some part of these sellers are sincerely convinced that their powders, chemicals, and rubs have some sort of cancer-fighting powers, they don’t actually know that they do. They believe. Alternative medicine is nothing more than medicine that hasn’t been vetted or tested to see if it actually works.

And in this context, that’s no better than handing someone a gun and telling them that it isn’t loaded… when they haven’t actually bothered to check. As good ole’ Abe Lincoln once said:

It is an established maxim and moral that he who makes an assertion without knowing whether it is true or false is guilty of falsehood, and the accidental truth of the assertion does not justify or excuse him.


The New Age “Secret” in Hawaii: You Created Your Cancer Circumstance!

June 8, 2008

In my opinion, Hawaii is the best and most beautiful of our 50 states. But while I was down there blissfully schooling with reef fish, I also happened to notice that the local media seemed saturated with the New Age/New Thought nuttery known as “The Secret.” Many of its luminaries were offering talks, conferences, and workshops throughout the summer, with tickets that ran as high as $250 for “V.I.P.” seats.

For those not duly acquainted with this stuff, it’s essentially a self-help/motivational speaking movement that has proudly leaped off the deep-end with mystical pronouncements about the nature of thought and reality. Namely, they claim that the entire universe is shaped by people’s thoughts, and that a “Law of Attraction” allows you to draw the things you want to you just by thinking about them. The whole shebang is, in the end, pretty standard pseudoscience: lots of very vague claims, few falsifiable, coupled with the attitude that any skeptics are party-poopers messing up all the magic with their negative nancyings.

Wishing got me this hatAnyway, one of Hawaii’s local papers featured an interview with one Mike Dooley “former Hawaii Marine brat,” former tax accountant, T-shirt salesman, and now multi-million dollar motivational mufti for the Secret movement. His trademark idea is that “Thoughts Become Things.” He even, without any sense of self-parody, has some sort of super-adventure club called TUT.com to promote it.

How did he come to conclude that he (and maybe you, if you can afford the 130$ workshop) could recreate reality with his mind?

Not finding answers in the mainstream, including the religion I belong to [I was] a good old Catholic boy. I was left to draw conclusions–deductive reasoning. For instance, [that] we’re powerful, loved, eternal, that time space must be illusions. These were my inner suspicions. We are divine creators. What we focus on, we ultimately manifest. Books helped me confirm my inner suspicions about life.”

I’m not sure how or why “deductive reasoning” got downgraded to “inner suspicion” halfway through this paragraph, but the idea that time and space are “illusions” is a pretty darn extravagant claim. And it’s one that I’m not so sure you can use an “inner suspicion” to discern the truth of. Entirely within the confines of your own mind, it’s perfectly possible to think of the universe, and everything that happens in it, as illusion. That’s because it’s the ultimate in unfalsifiable beliefs: any possible evidence to the contrary can simply be classified as part of the illusion.

But what does it really mean to assert that time and space are a mirage… and then try to simply move on from there as a being within that false reality? If everything is fake, what’s real, and how does Dooley know?

Worse still, Dooley promotes his approach by insisting that his method can deliver all sorts of material wants: money, cars, worldly success. But that’s bizarrely out of step with his own philosophical assertions. If reality is a distracting illusion, then all these physical goodies would themselves also be a distracting illusion. What sense does it make to declare reality a complete fantasy and then spend so much time demanding cold hard cash out of it? At least when most Buddhists tell people to let go of any attachment to existence, they mean it whole-heartedly: not merely as a means to a materialist payday.

So, while Dooley calls his insights a philosophy, insisting that what he’s selling is neither religion nor a cult (and thus wonderfully compatible with either), it’s a woefully incomplete and vague sort of philosophy. This is especially so when he runs up against the obvious problem with his few coherent claims: if people create their own reality, then why would anyone choose to suffer? Wouldn’t this mean that individuals are all 100% to blame for any circumstance they find themselves in? When you get sick, is it merely because of a lack of will? Are cancer patients to blame for their colon killing them and their chemo treatments torturing them?

Well, according to Dooley, in addition to the Law of Attraction, there are “other parameters, none of which take away our power, but do explain the disparity we see in the world.” He doesn’t list any, or explain them further. Instead, he sort of slides around the implication without really answering it:

“Fault is not a word that would be used spiritually. We choose our lives, the stage, knowing ahead of time that there could be hardships. Irrelevant of the circumstances, we are creators. Why was such a circumstance created. Every person that has cancer has it with their own intents, rationale, and motivation. To say “Is it their fault?” is taking the whole thing out of context. They are master creators. There are reasons. Whether or not those reasons can be pinpointed doesn’t take away our ability to recognize that we are creators and that things do not happen to us by chance or accident.” (emphasis added)

“There are reasons”? We have cancer with “our own intents”? I’m not sure what the heck that means, but it sure sounds like cancer patients are indeed due little sympathy for their self-inflicted sufferings.

Give me old-time theodicy any day of the week. It doesn’t make any sense either, but at least it isn’t quite as vague and off-the-cuff.

Why isn’t “fault” a word that can be “used spiritually” anyway? We’re back to my usual complaint here: tossing the word “spiritual” or “supernatural” into a concept does not magically alleviate one’s need to explain what the heck you’re claiming is going on. Or, in this case, why a concept like “fault” can’t apply to the idea of people apparently choosing their circumstances. And it doesn’t explain how Dooley can know or “recognize” that nothing happens by “chance or accident.”

Traditional motivational speakers don’t dabble in metaphysics like this: they teach people how to improve on their circumstances, find explanations for things after the fact, repurpose lemons into Fruitopia. They teach positive thinking because it can help lead one to more positive behavior, not because it’s some sort of magic incantation.

I know enough about even the traditional “self-help” methods and movements to be highly skeptical of them, and advise the same skepticism for others. But the kooky claims of this Secret stuff positively scream “scam.”


Real Space Alien To Be Shown On Video Friday! Wooooo!

May 29, 2008

Jeff Peckman is a fan of big government. Last time we heard from him, he was trying to enlist the state in yoga and meditation to reduce stress. But now state meddling in mere human endeavors isn’t enough: he’s petitioning for the creation of an Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission to help the city of Denver prepare for alien encounters.

He’s serious. And now he claims that he’ll have video to prove it. The public will have only to wait until next month to see this groundbreaking scientific discovery, supposedly authenticated by a Colorado Film School “instructor.” I’m not sure how even a real expert on film could do anything more than make sure that a video didn’t have any post-processed trickery. But given what Peckman claims the video shows…

“It shows an extraterrestrial’s head popping up outside of a window at night, looking in the window, that’s visible through an infrared camera,” he said. The alien is about 4 feet tall and can be seen blinking, Peckman said earlier this month.

… I’m betting “dude in a costume” and “random animal” are likely possibilities.

I hope the “news media” who will get to see the footage at a special showing tomorrow come to the event with their skepti-senses tingling, or else we’re in for a whole heck of a lot of breathlessly silly “off-beat” news pieces that take the video half-seriously.

Update: Phil Plait dissects the video by pointing out that a known fake video looks far more compelling than the real one.


Mike Myers vs. Hinduism. Deepak Chopra vs Skeptics.

April 1, 2008

Mike Myers, comedian of Austin Powers fame, is apparently ruffling some feathers amongst Hindus with his upcoming film “The Love Guru.” I tend to be somewhat sympathetic to the concerns of religious people when films appear to ridicule or caricature their beliefs: particularly religious minorities that aren’t well understood in the U.S. to begin with. My sympathies don’t extend to complaining about the films themselves of course (religion shouldn’t be any more or less open to fair game ridicule than anything else): I can just understand the concerns about the negative cultural results.

It’s one thing to mock a culture we are all intimately familiar with: we have a solid basis of understanding that comedy can enhance or even challenge. It’s quite another thing when the only thing many people have to go on is a caricature. And while Hinduism deserves as much criticism and analysis as any cultural, religious, or political force, Hindus, as people, also deserve better understanding and acceptance as part of the bargain.

That said, what’s of particular interest to skeptics regarding this film are Myers’ comments about Deepak Chopra, who is considered by most skeptics to be the reigning king of new age, pseudoscientific woo. Myers claims that his character is based on Chopra, but also notes that Chopra is a close friend.

Myers… …says in an episode of the Sundance Channel’s “Iconoclasts” that Chopra, his longtime friend, was the inspiration for the Love Guru character.

“He is the basis of why I went down this path of a character like that, and it’s because I am interested in higher states of consciousness and I am interested in comedy,” Myers says. “The guru, he breaks down your barriers, gets you silly and gets you light so you’re in a place to receive love.”

Will Myers be poking fun at woo and alt-med in a way that skeptics can be proud of? Or will he be basically celebrating the Chopra-hype with a lighthearted endorsement of its ideas? Seems pretty ambiguous at this point, but its something to watch.


Roving Bands of Eunuchs Seek to Steal Your Johnson: We Thought We Had it Bad With “Gay Panic”

March 31, 2008

I didn’t understand half the cultural concepts mentioned when I first read this article: why there are roving bands of eunuchs in India at all, what a “male issue” is (an elaborate term for baby boy?), and why, exactly a group of eunuchs would forcibly chop off some poor kids’ private parts. To be honest, it sounded much like yet another element of the so-called “penis panics” that have from time to time erupted in some Asian cultures.

But from this news of the weird tidbit I stumbled onto yet another intriguing wrinkle in culture and sexuality I’d been completely ignorant of.

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Think You Can See the Dead? Skeptics Can’t Wait to Test Your Brain and Find Out

March 12, 2008

One of my favorite articles of blogging past was the piece I did on “Spiritualism Camps” in which I mused over just how it was that a camp counselor medium like Judy Ulch could litterally see “stubble on their faces” of ghosts.  Just today I received the first and only comment on the piece… and was given a terrible review.  “Jean” even said that I looked stupid: trying to apply scientific hypothesizing to spirits, pshaw!  I’m crushed.

Of course, Jean was apparently so outraged by the mere idea of examining spiritual phenomenon that she didn’t bother to read far enough to see all her complaints addressed.  And her post did spark an bright idea of bloggy  back-issue synergism.

You see, just last week I came across a story about some scientists at Berkeley who are working on an MRI technique that could potentially allow scientists to reconstruct the images that a brain is seeing. Now, for mediums like Judy Ulch to be registering anything ghostly as a visual image at all, let alone something detailed enough to have distinct facial features, it almost certainly has to show up in her brain.  And if we can reconstruct that image… well you probably see where I’m going with this.  If we can see what they see, then we can see if they really see what they say they see.  See?

Of course, most mediums will probably balk at the very idea of testing their powers of paranormal perception in such a definitive fashion, and are as unlikely to let scientists strap them into an MRI machine set up in the middle of an Indian burial ground as they were to take James Randi’s million dollar challenge.

Which is a sad thing really.  If spirits really did exist, and mediums really could perceive them, then even a failure in this case could teach us all something.  That is, if a ghostly visage fails to appear on the processed MRI scan at the moment the medium claims to see one, then at the very least we’ve been able to rule out yet another false model of how spirit images work.  We could rule out all sorts of things in fact:

  • The possibility that mediums have special rods and cones in their eyes that allow them to detect spiritual radiation.
  • That any kind of optical image (light waves hit the ghost, bounce off, are captured by human eyes, etc.) is involved at all.
  • That mediums are really “seeing” the ghosts in any meaningful sense, as opposed to the ghostly gaze being somehow superimposed onto the mental results of regular vision.

And of course, there’s always the possibility that spirits would show up on the MRI technique, in which case mediums would be vindicated and heralded as ingenious and overlooked pioneers in a entirely new realm of scientific exploration.

I’m game.  I bet most skeptics would be.  All we have to lose is the money for the use of the machine.  What we have to gain, however, is knowledge, one way or the other.  Sounds good to me.

So how about it, mediums?  Ready to do your part for human knowledge?


CNN Repeats “Lizard Man” Monster Myth

March 2, 2008

A kooky cryptozoology case dating back to the 80s has returned to the public eye thanks to CNN: after an elderly couple reported damage to their car and the disappearance of their pets, the so called “Lizard Man” of Scape Ore Swamp in Lee County, South Carolina has yet again taken the blame. Like many such stories, it’s treated as an offbeat interest piece: which means that the claims are made with awed seriousness, but a little skepticism is treated as spoiling the fun.

The “Lizard Man” has all the hallmarks of a classic hysteria: a single claimed sighting spirals into rootless anomaly hunting, where anything strange or unidentifiable is ascribed to the mysterious beast, expanding the myth. Tourism increases, mixing money with local legend, and leading to tongue in cheek promotion of the attraction regardless of whether people believe it or not. And, finally, outright hoaxsters are then discovered, casting doubt on even the original sightings.

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Demons Among Us: Exorcism Revival in Europe

February 11, 2008

Exorcism, in all its goofy glory, is making a comeback.

“People don’t pray anymore, they don’t go to church, they don’t go to confession. The devil has an easy time of it,” Amorth said in an interview. “There’s a lot more devil worship, people interested in satanic things and seances, and less in Jesus.”

Amorth and other priests said the resurgence in exorcisms has been encouraged by the Vatican, which in 1999 formally revised and upheld the rite for the first time in almost 400 years.

Because as we know, people that don’t go to church inevitably drift towards worshiping a demigod in the pantheon of a random theology that they don’t believe in.

Jankowski cited the case of a woman who asked for a divorce days after renewing her wedding vows as part of a marriage counseling program. What was suspicious, he said, was how the wife suddenly developed a passionate hatred for her husband.

“According to what I could perceive, the devil was present and acting in an obvious way,” he said. “How else can you explain how a wife, in the space of a couple of weeks, could come to hate her own husband, a man who is a good person?”

Well, clearly, only mystical demons waving their googly invisible fingers can explain such a thing as minor marital strife!

This sort of logic strikes me as an embarrassingly naive Satan-of-the-Gaps gambit. How does the priest know that the husband is a “good person” anyway? Can he really rule out the possibility that he’s done something awful to his wife that she resents but doesn’t want to talk about? Or that she’s just gotten annoyed by the guy, as just happens sometimes? Or that she’s just a jerk?

But, as I’m always interested in the technical details of these sort of phenomena (which often seem to get made up on the fly), this article actually does provide a bit of insight:

Exorcists said the people they help can be in the grip of evil to varying degrees. Only a small fraction, they said, are completely possessed by demons — which can cause them to display inhuman strength, speak in exotic tongues, recoil in the presence of sacred objects or overpower others with a stench.

Ah, so people can be partially possessed by demons. That makes things much more interesting.

But how do priests know this, exactly? Did they stumble upon a demonic livejournal documenting the halting progress of some illict supernatural relationship? How can they tell partial possession from just a really smart demon who knows better than to act up too much when priests are lurking around with their ghostbuster equipment? What’s going on with a “partial” possession anyway? Are demons in control of some neurons in the brain, but not others?

Or, if you want to insist that “souls” are involved, then maybe you could explain how this works, exactly. Do souls have little labeled levers that demons can tug at?  How do souls “work” such that these behorned-goatypants-ghosts can actually manipulate them?  What functional inner workings of a soul are demons subverting, exactly?  What functions are they seizing from the operator?  How does the conflict work? Come on, tell me.

Again, the thing with “reality” is that there are tangible details to true explanations, and the details matter. The thing with “stuff someone makes up as they go along” is that the details don’t matter: demons act however they need to for the belief in them to continue to fit the story being told. Or maybe there’s no grounds for any sort of explanation. It’s a “supernatural” explanation, which means, basically, no explanation at all.

And, yes, yes.  You heard it here first: demons are to blame for Smelly Body Odor. But only if their voodoo powered soul-squatting or whatever is “complete.”  

Exorcists said they are careful not to treat people suffering from mental illness, and that they regularly consult with psychologists and physicians. At the same time, they said, conventional medical therapy often neglects spiritual ailments.

Perhaps it does.  But I’d really like to know how one would diagnose a spiritual ailment.  Doctors, for instance, diagnose problems by knowing generally how the symptoms are connected to an underlying cause.  They can often even provide some sort of testable plausible model that gives reliable results. What’s the similar process here? Is there one?

By the definition of these guys, I probably have a pretty darn serious “spiritual ailment” in my atheism: how come I don’t smell like sulfur or recoil at red wine that’s been duly blessed?  How come I’m not blowing through cartons of underarm deodorant a day?  Savvy defenders might, I suppose, excuse my lack of demonic influence by the excuse that demons have no need to trifle with the already fallen.  But why is there no consistency to any of these things other than whatever the priest declares, ex posterio, is going on?

And is “spiritual ailment” just a religious gloss on the far more mundane “upset and unhappy,” perhaps with a little theological angst tossed in? It sure seems like it is.

Still, it must be nice to believe that ones bad thoughts and impulses are the work of some sort of covert act of sabotage, and that by waving a ball of incense around, you can block the transmissions of the CIA…. er I mean, Satan. But no no, seriously, these people aren’t mentally ill. No similarities there at all.

“My remedy is based on spiritual means, which cannot be replaced by any pharmaceutical remedies,” said Trojanowski, the priest who is overseeing plans for the new exorcism center. “I do not stop at the level of just treating symptoms. I’m very much interested in the soul of a person. As a priest, I keep asking questions a doctor will never ask.”

Because I know how always frustrates me when my doctor won’t consider the possibility that elf curses are making me gain weight.

Seriously though, what the priests are ultimately doing here is making upset, confused, and possibly deranged people feel better by telling them that they are using their mystical powers to cure them. For all their pretensions about curing a “soul,” what they are doing here is no different than what any psychologist tries to do: trying to make people feel better and deal with their problems by talking to them.   The priests simply toss in a bit more ceremony.

And while any medical doctor could do the same sort of thing with a physical ailment, they don’t. And why not? Because in the case of the doctor, just telling patients that they are curing them and then making some cryptic hand signals is fraud and malpractice, not medicine.

Until priests can actually describe the specific working mechanism of souls, explain how in particular they are subverted by fallen angels, and show how the priest’s interventions work to treat the condition, I think the sanctimonious scorn for the limits of western medicine is a teensy bit premature.


Life is Not a Computer: “Information” Inanity in Evolutionary Biology

January 23, 2008

John Wilkins, over at Evolving Thoughts has been making a pretty persuasive case that trying to apply concepts like “information” to biology is mostly a waste of time. In Part One, he covers what the concept of information actually is and why it’s such a clunker when it comes to describing biological systems. In Part Two, he defends a view of biology where information is just an abstract way of modeling things, not a property of those things itself.

Wilkins gets a bit technical, but a key take-away point is that defining exactly what we mean by “information” is extremely tricky: there are several complicated formulations of the concept, and they are generally incompatible with each other. We can’t possibly apply the idea of information to biological systems unless we nail down what we are looking for (most Intelligent Design arguments trip up at this very first step: they never specify what they mean by information in the first place).

Even once we’ve done that it’s still not clear exactly what we should be measuring. What is the information of biology? DNA code seems like an obvious candidate, but its clearly an incomplete one: so much of what biology is and how it works is contextual: it assumes certain things about what’s in the cells (including things that have their own evolving RNA code) and what environment those cells will find themselves in. Nor is DNA the only candidate: there are entire gene pools to consider (where arguably most of the information relevant to evolution is best captured), the functional complexity of an organism (which is not simply an expression DNA code), and so on.

Finally, there’s the problem that information may be the wrong model altogether, missing the subtleties that make biology distinctive from computer science. DNA, for instance, isn’t simply information read and then translated by a program. It’s a physical, tangible, and causal object, and its particular chemical properties and reactions are part of the process, rather than deviations or errors in the sole task of record keeping. Biology, the fantasies of creationists about “random processes” aside, is all about complex chains of causality, and those chains extend backwards from our DNA all the way to the origin of life.  Any meager measure of “information” is going to simply miss all of that.

With all those difficulties in defining and applying the idea of “information” to biology, it’s little wonder that many pseudo-scientists have gotten accustomed to talking about “information” in much the same way they talk about “energy”: as a sort of cipher for whatever unexplained bit of mysticism they happen to be pushing at the moment. Some woo-mesiters have even claimed that energy is information and vice-versa. This guy even cutely claims that Energy is “In-formation.” Get it?

No? Well, good: there’s nothing much there to get. There’s not even a hint of any understanding of information theory or energy in such babbling (other than “lots of really complex stuff!” and “glowing ball of lifepower!”)

And that’s the real problem with “information”-talk: because it’s such a difficult concept to apply to biological processes, the potential for error and confusion are always high. And if even biologists and information theorists aren’t sure what “information” should mean in terms of biology, you can bet that tossing the term out to laypeople is a recipe for intellectual disaster and creationist exploitation.