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Fayetteville Freethinker Mythbuster board

The Mythbuster Board of No Mercy!

  1. Eskimos have many words for our word "snow."

    It is important to count lexemes rather than just words. A lexeme is different from a word since a lexeme can give rise to more than one distinctly inflected word. Thus English has a single lexeme speak which gives rise to inflected forms like speaks, spoke, and spoken. It's especially important when talking about Eskimo languages because they are inflectionally so complicated that each single noun lexeme may have about 280 distinct inflected forms, while each verb lexeme may have over 1000! Obviously, that would put the number of snow words through the roof very quickly.
    When you count this way you get approximately 15 different Eskimo lexemes for snow. In English we have perhaps a few more. Here is a list of 22 English snow lexemes put together by Anthony C. Woodbury, chairman of the department of linguistics at the University of Texas:

    avalanche, blizzard, blowing snow, dusting, flurry, frost, hail, hardpack, ice lens, igloo (Inuit iglu 'house'), pingo (Inuit pingu(q) 'ice lens'), powder, sleet, slushsnow, snow bank, snow cornice, snow fort, snow house, snowman, snow-mixed-with-rain?, snowflake, snowstorm, others?

    See his article at http://www.princeton.edu/~browning/snow.html

  2. Hitler was an Atheist.

    There is no evidence Hitler was an atheist, there is much evidence he was a life long Christian:

    • Hitler's beliefs are expressed clearly in his founding book Mein Kampf. He believed in Heaven, Hell, a supreme being who created the universe, Jesus Christ, life after death, special creation, original sin, expulsion from paradise, and divine judgment. His book is filled with references to God and the Bible, such as: ". . . I am convinced that I am acting as the agent of our Creator. By fighting off the Jews. I am doing the Lord's work."
    • As a baptized Roman Catholic he became a communicant and an altar boy in his youth and was never excommunicated. He admired Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism, who shared his vehement anti-Semitism.
    • He believed this way until late in life. General Gerhart Engel recorded Hitler saying in 1941: "I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so."
    • Hitler’s Nazi soldiers were required to wear belt buckles inscribed with the saying “GOTT MIT UNS” (God with us).
    • Hitler required Jesus prayers in all schools under his administration, and he said: "Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith. . . we need believing people." (From Hitler's speech, April 26, 1933, during negotiations which led to the Nazi-Vatican Concordat of 1933.)
    • The Nazis were explicitly Christian. The 24th principle of the Nazi Party reads: "We demand the freedom of religion in the Reich so long as they do not endanger the position of the state or adversely affect the moral standards of the German race. As such the Party represents a positively Christian position without binding itself to one particular faith.”
    • Hitler hated atheists and specifically targeted the "godless," as an Associated Press story of Feb. 23, 1933, noted: "A campaign against the 'godless movement' and an appeal for Catholic support were launched by Chancellor Adolf Hitler's forces."
    • Quotes of Hitler denouncing Christianity have been shown to be bogus. See the article at http://tinyurl.com/45l6j.

  3. Evolution is a theory, not a fact.

    Evolution is a theory and a fact. In science, the word theory has a specific meaning which differs from the commonly used meaning of "hunch" or "guess." Scientific theories explain a class of facts and observations, make predictions consistent with natural law and are testable. That the earth goes around the sun is the scientific theory of heliocentricism, it is also a fact. Similarly, evolution has withstood rigorous testing for over 130 years and is an extremely well established fact.

    For more information, see http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolution-fact.html.

  4. We only use 10% of our brain.

    In fact, destruction of even small areas of the human brain can have devastating effects on behavior. Neurosurgeons must carefully map the brain before removing brain tissue during operations for epilepsy or brain tumors so that essential areas are not damaged.
    Certain neurological disorders, like Parkinson's Disease, also affect only specific areas of the brain. The damage caused by these conditions is far less than damage to 90% of the brain.

    Brain imaging research techniques such as PET scans (positron emission tomography) and fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) clearly show that the vast majority of the brain is used during the course of a day, but different activities or thought pattern do indeed use different parts of the brain. Similarly, you don’t use all of your muscle groups at one time, but you do use all of your muscles!

    This myth may have been started with a misquote of Albert Einstein or the misinterpretation of the work of Pierre Flourens in the 1800s. It may have been William James who wrote in 1908: "We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources" (from The Energies of Men, p. 12).

    For a more thorough rebuttal of this myth, go to http://www.csicop.org/si/9903/ten-percent-myth.html.

  5. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote the New Testament Gospels.

    Contrary to what you may have heard in church, standard mainstream Bible scholarship has long acknowledged that the gospels are anonymous. When the church in the second century sought to lend authority to the Gospels, it assigned each of them to an apostle or an associate of an apostle. The "Oxford Companion to the Bible" gives a good summary of the scholarly consensus:

    Matthew, The Gospel According to.
    It is commonly held that Matthew was written in about 85, or 90 CE by an unknown Christian...the apostle Matthew...is unlikely...the story's author. On the contrary, the author exhibits a theological outlook, command of Greek, and rabbinic training that suggests he was a Jewish Christian of the second rather than the first generation...(of Antioch). (p502)
    Mark, The Gospel According to.
    The ascription of the gospel of Mark goes back to at least Papias...who in about 130 CE reported that he had been told that it was written by Mark "the interpreter of Peter"... (p493)
    Luke, The Gospel According to.
    ...the third gospel is anonymous, as are the other gospels. Ancient church tradition attributed...(it)...to Luke who appears in Philemon 24 as Paul's "fellow worker" and is called the "beloved physician" in Colossians 4:14....Most modern commentators on the Lucan gospel, however, are skeptical about the validity of this traditional attribution. (p470)
    John, The Gospel According to.
    ...the work may be regarded as apostolic in character, even though it did not in the end come (as some would argue) from the hand of John the apostle himself....written at the very latest by the beginning of the second century CE... (p375)

    Biblical scholar Bruce Metzger puts it,

    The text itself of each Gospel is anonymous and its title represents what later tradition had to say about the identity of the author." (The New Testament, 96)

  6. The Bible has no errors

    Contrary to what many fundamentalists claim, the Bible has many errors and contradictions. Usually the claim is that some "original manuscripts" were inerrant but there is no basis for this claim. Consider:

    • Since no portion of the Bible we have to day is based on "original" manuscripts we have no way of knowing whether this supposition is true or not.
    • The idea that the "original" manuscripts were without errors is something that nobody ever has proved, and nobody ever can prove, because no "original" manuscript of any part of the Bible exists today.
    • The idea that any original manuscripts were inerrant is pure wishful thinking.
    • There are so many errors in the Bible that they cannot all be ascribed to copyists' errors, but must be assumed to have been there in the first place, since copying was, on the whole, especially with the Hebrew scriptures, quite accurately done.
    • Since to this day Christians cannot agree on how many books should be in the Bible (39, 66, 72, or more), it is useless to argue about whether any of them were inerrant in the first place. (Ralph Nielsen)

    See our pamphlet on Bible errors and contradictions for many examples. [coming soon!]

  7. Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible.

    There are many reasons scholars have long known that Moses could not have written the Pentateuch.

    The Pentateuch reads like a story "about" Moses, written in the third person, not a story written "by" Moses in the first person.
    "Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men that were upon the face of the earth" (Num. 12:3).

    Deuteronomy 34, which relates the death and burial of Moses, contains the statements, "but no man knows of his burial place unto this day," v.6, "and there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses," verse 10. The phrases "unto this day" and "not since in Israel," imply that they were composed long after Moses' day. In fact, notice the frequent occurrence of the expression "unto this day," in places where it could have had no meaning, unless the "day" referred to was considerably later than the time of Moses or Joshua, Deuteronomy 3:14, 34:6; Joshua 4:9, 5:9, 7:26, 8:29, 9:27, 10:27, 13:13, 15:63, 16:10, 14:14.

    Names of places are often used familiarly, which could scarcely have been known to Moses, much less to the Israelites generally, at the time of the Exodus, some of which, indeed, are modern names, which, according to the story itself, did not even exist in the time of Moses.

    In Deuteronomy, transactions, in which Moses himself was concerned, are detailed at full length, as by one referring to events long past. See Deuteronomy, chapters 1-3, especially Deut. 3:4-11.
    "These be the words, which Moses spoke unto all Israel on the other side Jordan, in the wilderness" (Deut. 1:1). "On the other side Jordan, in the land of Moab, began Moses to declare this law" (Deut. 1:5). On this, Bleek writes, "These words could only have been written by one who found himself on this side Jordan, and, therefore, after the death of Moses and the possession of the land of Canaan." (Moses died when the Israelites were still living on the wilderness side of the Jordan.)

    Another such expression indicating a later date than that of Moses: "And the Canaanite was then in the land" (Gen. 12:6). "And the Canaanite and Perizzite dwelt then in the land" (Gen. 13:7). (The Israelites pushed out the Canaanites who were "then in the land, but only after Moses had died.)

    "And, while the children of Israel were in the wilderness." Numbers 15:32 (Written when the people were no longer in the wilderness, and therefore, not by Moses, who never made it to the promised land).

    The above was compiled by Ed Babinski. Many more examples are given at his page, http://www.edwardtbabinski.us/errancy/pentateuch.html.

  8. A tooth left in a glass of Coca-Cola will dissolve overnight.

    Coca-Cola contains acids (such as citric acid and phosphoric acid) which will eventually dissolve items such as teeth (given enough time), but so do plenty of other substances we commonly ingest (such as orange juice, which has more citric acid than coke). The concentration of acid in these products is so low that our digestive systems are easily capable of coping with it with no harm to us.
    The idea that any substance which can dissolve teeth must therefore damage our teeth if we drink it is nonsensical. We don't hold drinks in our mouths for days at a time — any liquids we drink simply wash over our teeth very briefly, and our teeth are further protected by their enamel coating and the ameliorating effects of saliva.

    To learn more on this and 25 other coke-related myths, go to http://www.snopes.com/cokelore/cokelore.asp.

  9. The Bible is against abortion.

    The Old Testament, which contains over 600 laws governing everything from clothing fabrics to how to cut a beard, contains no law prohibiting abortion.  Neither God nor Jesus condemned abortion in the Bible. Jesus didn't say a word about it. God speaks of abortion twice in the Bible.

    1. Accidental Abortion: If a brawling man happens to strike a pregnant woman and causes a miscarriage (i.e., an ABORTION), he must pay a fine to the expectant father. But if he otherwise injures the woman, he must be punished accordingly. (Exodus 21:22-25)
    2. Intentional Abortion: If a man suspects that his wife had had intercourse with another man--and possibly has become pregnant--he shall take her to the tabernacle, where the priest shall mix holy water with the dust off the floor--where animals are slaughtered for sacrifice--and force the woman to drink it. If she is guilty, her womb will discharge and her uterus will drop. (In other words, she will have an ABORTION.) (Numbers 5:11-21)

    In the Bible only male babies over one month of age were counted as persons during a census. A baby under one month of age and a fetus were not counted as a person. Numbers 3:15 "... every male from a month old and upward you shall number."

    God ordered numerous mass murders of men, women, and children (Numbers 31; Deuteronomy 2:33-35 and 20:16-17; Joshua 6:21, 8:25, and 10:28-40; 1 Samuel 15:3,7-8; Esther 8; Jeremiah 49; and Ezekiel 9:6) but He makes it clear that only virgins were to be spared.  Pregnant women were to be killed along with their husbands and sons.

    The Oxford Companion to the Bible gives the scholarly consensus here:

    "Biblical legislation, as in Leviticus 27:3-7, indicates that the lives of children as well as women were not valued as highly as those of adult men, while no value whatsoever was given to a child under the age of one month. There is no indication that a fetus had any status."
    -- The Oxford Companion to the Bible, edited by Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan; Oxford University Press, 1993, p. 4

  10. The stock market and economy does better under Republicans.

    Historically, Democrats are much better for the stock market than Republicans. Slate magazine ran the numbers and found that since 1900, Democratic presidents have produced a 12.3 percent annual total return on the S∓P 500, but Republicans only an 8 percent return. In 2000, the Stock Trader's Almanac, came up with nearly the same numbers (13.4 percent versus 8.1 percent) by measuring Dow price appreciation.
    Nor does having a Republican Congress help the market. A Democratic Senate showed returns of 10.5 percent (versus 9.4 percent for a GOP upper chamber), and a Democratic House returned 10.9 percent versus 8.1 percent for the Republicans.

    Of course the stock market is not the whole economy but real GDP growth follows the same pattern. Since 1930 (the first year decent data is available), GDP growth was 5.4 percent for Democratic presidents and 1.6 percent for Republicans.

    Excerpted from http://slate.msn.com/id/2071929/.

  11. There was a worldwide flood.

    Geological evidence such as sand dunes, dinosaur nesting sites and meteor impact craters in the geologic column long ago refuted the idea of a worldwide flood. Large floods leave behind good evidence, and there is no such evidence in the geological record. With no evidence for it and good evidence against it, science has long ago rejected the idea of a worldwide flood.

    The biblical story of Noah story is borrowed from the much more ancient Tales of Gilgamesh which predates it by at least a thousand years. However, the tale of a massive, devastating flood appears also in other ancient writings, often in similar terms, suggesting that it may record a real and memorable event.

    Geologists Walter Pitman and William Ryan are senior scientists at Columbia University and have shown through studies of sediments in the Black Sea that it may have been a freshwater lake until about 5600 B.C. They present both geologic and archaeological evidence for a large flood in that area, dating it at about 5600 B.C. "The Bosporus flume roared and surged at full spate for at least three hundred days... ten cubic miles of water poured through each day, two hundred times what flows over Niagara Falls." The cascade inundated 60,000 square miles of land, forcing the people living in the region to disperse.
    Pitman and Ryan suggest that this event had enormous consequences for human history. They marshal evidence from archeology, mythology, linguistics, and agriculture to describe a flood-driven diaspora of early farmers. "Subsets of these people became (variously) proto-Indo-Europeans, Sumerians, Beaker People, Vincas, Tocharians--the founders of the early cultures of Europe and western Asia."
    -- Noah's Flood : The New Scientific Discoveries About the Event that Changed History

  12. Water, oil and other substances can be detected by "Dowsing."

    Dowsing has been thoroughly tested and has consistently failed those tests. For many years James Randi has offered $1,000,000 to anyone who can pass a simple dowsing test. He has tested over 200 applicants, and the Fayetteville Freethinkers have tested one dowser. They have all failed. Dowsing is very convincing to those who try it because of the ideomoter effect. This is a trick of the mind where the stick, pendulum, wire or whatever, seems to be moving without you consciously trying to do it. Ouija board gained popularity by using the same principle.
    In 1986 the government of Germany spent $250,000 doing an extensive test of dowsing. They started with 500 dowsers and with preliminary tests winnowed that group down to 43. The conclusion:

    "The Munich dowsing experiments represent the most extensive test ever conducted of the hypothesis that a genuine mysterious ability permits dowsers to detect hidden water sources. The research was conducted in a sympathetic atmosphere, on a highly selected group of candidates, with careful control of many relevant variables... [I]t is difficult to imagine a set of experimental results that would represent a more persuasive disproof of the ability of dowsers to do what they claim. The experiments thus can and should be considered a decisive failure by the dowsers."

    You can read a complete review of this extensive test here: http://www.csicop.org/si/9901/dowsing.html