Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Tobacco Review: McCranie's Red Flake

This is my first foray into any of the McCranie's tobacco although I have always heard great things both about the tobacco and the shoppe. As I understand it, McClelland processes and tins all the house blends of McCranie's Tobacco after McCranie's acquired a quanity of the 1983 Red Virginia crop which was a particularly good year. This 1983 crop was processed into McCranie's Red Ribbon and McCranie's Red Flake. The 1983 crop is all gone and currently this tobacco consists of a 1996 North Carolina crop.

Manufacturer's Description:

A beautifully aged Red Virginia like no other. Brimming with rich, mellow flavor as only nature can provide. A special allotment of prime 1996 crop North Carolina leaf has been secured for our discriminating pipe smokers. The softest, most enjoyable straight red Virginia we've ever smoked. With a light vacuum seal, the tobacco will continue to mellow with age. MSR: $7.95 50 gm tin.

This tobacco is a beautiful reddish brown with lighter mottling and cut into a moist broken flake. I was afraid of the McClelland 'ketchup' but I can smell no trace of it. Instead, I get a rich sour with a hint of vinegar. The Red Flake packs easily and burns well (one match for the whole bowl) into a light gray ash. The smoke is medium-bodied and smooth with no trace of spice or sweetness - in fact it is almost bland. The room note is light and pleasant and is a good all-day smoke.

Perhaps this is completely psychological, but this blend reminds me of red velvet cake - not in flavor but in texture. The smoke is smooth and creamy but simple and lacking complexity. Still, this is a great everyday flake that is perfect for enjoying around others where contemplation is not possible. If you enjoy McClelland 5100 then you will love this as it is much softer, drier, and cleaner. However, if you enjoy a lively or complex smoking experience then you will probably find Red Flake boring.

Rating: 3 Puffs out of 5

-Safari Bob

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

New Pipe: Mark Tinsky 1 Star Sunrise Prince

Today I received a new pipe in the mail: a Mark Tinsky Sunrise 1 Star 5 Prince. After I smoked my first Tinsky, I knew that I wanted a seven-day set. I find the Sunrise finish most attractive and so I asked Mark to carve a prince for me. Four days after I made the request the pipe arrived at my doorstep! That is service for you!

I think the next pipe I ask Mark to carve will be a straight apple Sunrise 5 with a saddle bit. I am not sure what will be after that; I wonder if he would carve a straight bandy glass?

-Safari Bob

Sunday, December 23, 2007

New Pipe: Mark Tinsky 1 Star Sunrise

I broke down and finally purchased a Mark Tinsky pipe. I had been eyeing this pipe at Gray Fox and I took advantage of the Christmas sale to finally pull the trigger. I love Apple shapes, both straight and bent, and I just loved this rendition of a 1/8" bent apple.

This pipe is comfortable and well balanced, has a good draw, and the pipe cleaner passes through the draw hole perfectly. The craftsmanship is 'top-notch' in that the draft hole is centered flush on the bottom of the bowl. It does smoke well although the bowl does get a little hot. In the past, I have had pipes that have done this only to break in after a short time with no further display of this excessive heating; I think the Tinsky will as well. In any case, the smoke is cool, dry and clean with no 'woodiness' or 'stain-fumes.' Overall, I am pleased.

If you are interested in looking for a Mark Tinsky pipe, I would recommend either Gray Fox or Mark Tinsky's website. His pipes range from $100 (at Gray Fox) and up.

-Safari Bob

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Why the Rest of the World Hates Americans

Some media sources seem to imply that the rest of the world hates Americans. I am skeptical of such implications but I may have found evidence of why this sentiment could exist: The Gold Pill. What other culture would invent some expensive means to add 'bling' to someone's excrement? You just can not make this stuff up!

Gold Pills

By Just another Rich Kid and Tobias Wong

Pure gold passes straight through the body and ends up in your stool resulting in sparkly shit!

Gold Leaf and capsules; each approximately 1 inch long; set of three

$247.50 Member [1]

This is the ridiculous world in which we live.

-Safari Bob


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I-35: The Holy Roller's Holy Roll

CNN is reporting that a group of Christians believe that I-35, which runs across the midsection of the USA, is the 'Way of Holiness' that they believe is mentioned in Isaiah 35:8 [1]. For the life of me, I cannot fathom how this kind of thought gets started (apart from copious amounts of liquor, that is) let along how upon reflection people can continue to believe it. Cindy Jones, a Texas minister with obviously too much time on her hands, received a revelation and says "she can't be sure Interstate 35 really is what is mentioned in the Bible but says she received a revelation to start this campaign after once again reading Isaiah, Chapter 35" [1].

The verse in question says:

And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it. [Isaiah 35:8; NIV]

This is a quintessential example of isogesis, or the reading in of meaning to a text. I suppose that the Reverend Jones has noticed that Isaiah 35 could be associated with I-35 - if one ignores the context of the pericope. This passage is describing Israel's triumphant return to Zion from exile: "They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them and sorrow and sighing will flee away" [Isaiah 35:10b; NIV].

Forget how this passage forms the end of First Isaiah and transitions into the exile phase of Second Isaiah [2]. Forget how Zion is a abstract concept that Eliade would refer to as an "archetype" [3]. What is more reasonable? That Isaiah 35 would refer to I-35 or that ancient Hebrews would engage in hegemony by describing a 'Way of Holiness' that led back to Israel from Babylon?

I tell you honestly that no one can make this stuff up! This is the ridiculous world in which we live!

-Safari Bob

[2] Blenkinsopp, J. (2000). Isaiah 1-39, The Anchor Bible Vol. 19. Doubleday, New York, pp. 454-457.
[3] Eliade, M. (1996). Patterns in Comparative Religion. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, pp. 371-372.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tobacco Review: McClelland Navy Cavendish

Over the years, I have grown to respect Mike and Mary (the owners of McClelland) and I have enjoyed their blends. When I was a tobacconist at Just For Him, they were very kind to me and would spend a lot of time with me describing their blends and discussing the gossip de jour in the tobacco world. I love Arcadia and still think that the now defunct X-40 was one of the best burley flakes I have ever smoked.

Manufacturer's Description of Navy Cavendish

With this tobacco, we reintroduce the smoker to the traditional Navy Cavendish aged naturally with dark Jamaican rum to enhance its sweetness and aroma. 50 gm or 100 gm SRP: $15.95 (100 gm)

When one opens the tin, one is confronted by a sweet rum aroma and sometimes the tell-tale ketchup smell of some McClelland Virginias. The tobacco is dark brown or black with lighter cuts mottled throughout the broken flakes. I do not rub-out my flakes so I clump the pieces together and slide them into the chamber. One certainly experiences a rum sweetness upon the initial light that does fade over time. As the bowl proceeds, one gets more of the Virginia sweetness with an accompanying spice that is also pleasant. The room note is sweeter than a pure Virginia alone as the tobacco burns into a medium gray loose ash. Even with the loose ash, I only had to relight once near the heel of the smoke.

I have smoked several tins of Navy Cavendish and unfortunately this blend seems to change from tin to tin. Some have an inexplicable 'ketchup' smell and others do not. Still, it is a regular in my rotation and overall I continue to enjoy it.

Rating: 3.5 Puffs out of 5

-Safari Bob

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Logical Fallacies I have Known: Ad Hominem

Have you ever been involved in a debate when the argument turned personal? If so you have probably been the target of an ad hominem attack: an attempt to counter someone's claims or conclusions by attacking the other person instead of their position in the debate. This fallacy can take many forms and, for some reason, seems to be pervasive in American culture. Often this tactic is found on the playground but it seems to have made its way into our culture's collective consciousness as a viable strategy.

For instance, Paul Joseph Watson ( is arguing for reasons that Hillary Clinton would be good for America when Watson attacks Bush:

Bush has betrayed his fake Christian ethic even more times than he's flipped off a television camera. [1]

By using pejorative terms such as 'fake Christian ethic' and 'he's flipped off' Watson is not addressing the reasons for Hillary but rather attacking Bush's character - a common tactic in political rhetoric. This tactic does bypass the issue at hand and is an ad hominem fallacy.

-Safari Bob


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tobacco Blending: 1042

I was wandering around on Gray Fox Forum ( when I was reminded of an old tobacco recipe that is passed down from tobacconist to tobacconist called 1042:

10 oz Black Vanilla Cavendish
4 oz Light White Burley
2 oz Golden Virginia Flake

Essentially, it is RLP-6 (or Captain Black in the White Pouch) clone and it is designed to be modified. For instance:

8 oz Black Cavendish (I used Lanes Toasted Cavendish)
4 oz Light White Burley (BLWB)
2 oz Golden Virginia Flake
2 oz Latakia

This makes a good, medium-bodied English. Of course, until the last 5-10 years or so, a heavy latakia blend was 7-12%. Further modifications can be made to get a rich aromatic such as:

8 oz Black Vanilla Cavendish
2 oz Black Cherry
4 oz Light White Burley
2 oz Golden Virginia Cube Cut

The possibilities are endless.

-Safari Bob

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Court Summons Hindu Gods to Testify; Monkey God Pleads 'The Fifth"

The BBC is reporting that a judge in India has summoned two Hindu gods, Ram and Hanuman, to help resolve a property dispute. Judge Sunil Kumar Singh has demanded that the Hindu Gods Ram and Hanuman appear in person to settle a 20 year debate over 1.4 acres of land between two temples of the gods in question. The judge has sent letters to each deity asking them to appear to settle the dispute.

I can not make this stuff up.

My question is this: Did he send the letters postage due? Is that why the honored deities refused his summons?

This is the ridiculous world in which we live.

-Safari Bob


Tobacco Review: Samuel Gawith's Christmas Mixture 2007

I remember when this blend first was offered (2004 I believe) and the storm it created. Everyone wanted it and shortages ran amok. I seem to remember that it was only available in one pound bags and that I was unable to acquire any for the shoppe. Also, we sold clove cigarettes and the rumor spread that this blend was a clove pipe tobacco. In some ways, the buying frenzy of this blend corollated with the high demand of Opus X at the time.

Manufacturer's Description:
Blended Virginias to which have been added traditional festive flavours Cinnamon, Rum, Sherry & Cherry. SRP: $8.95 50gm

A distinct sweet cinnamon and clove aroma is present upon opening the tin; in fact it is highly flavored and the aroma is pervasive. The tobacco is moist and comprised of gold ribbon and crimp cuts that pack well and allow a slow burn. The tobacco burns well and combusts into a light mottled-gray ash. Initially, the cinnamon and rum comes through strongly and, as the bowl progresses, these flavors overpower the pallet and subside into a sweet, generic spice with a touch of clove. This blend is not hot - just spicy - and certainly reminds me of a Christmas flavor; in fact I swear that I tasted a hint of egg nog about midway through the pipe.

This blend reminds me of one of my blends at Just For Him: Cinnamon Cordial. Certainly SG's Christmas Mixture does not disappoint to remind the smoker of Christmas. This is a good holiday blend but I am not sure that I would smoke it any time during the rest of the year. I am curious about how this will age so I have included a tin in my cellar.

Rating: 4 Puffs out of 5

-Safari Bob

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Tobacco Review: Ashton Smooth Sailing

The latest Ashton blends came out in 2005, if I remember correctly, and replaced some great tobaccos that were reputedly tinned by McClelland (I still have several tins of Pebble Cut and Original Old Church that I covet). These new blends are, to me, a surprise (I particularly enjoy Winding Road) and over all I find them to be quite tasty. I can not remember who is currently blending these for Ashton and all that is found on the packaging is a cryptic: "Blended by hand in the European Union."

Manufacturer's Description:
Pleasurably palatable and wonderfully smooth, this aromatic mixture is slightly nutty, boasting flavors of maple, coconut and dark chocolate. SRP: $10.50 for 50 gm.

The dark chocolate and coconut are immediately evident when one opens the tin; it reminds me of a Mounds bar. The blend itself is an attractive mixture of black cavendish, brown ribbon, and gold flake cuts. The tobacco is on the dry side, easy to pack, and smells wonderful. It lights easily and burns into an ash that is darker gray with white speckles. The flavor is darker and less sweet than the aroma promises. Throughout the smoke the dark chocolate is present and builds as a subtle roasted nutty tone circles the edges. Overall, a surprisingly complex flavor that is not too sweet accompanies a clean burn and delicious room note that is a sure fire crowd pleaser.

This reminds me of a much more sophisticated Consolidated 333 or a lighter, more pleasant Mac Baren Honey Chocolate. It does burn a little quickly for my taste but I think that this is a good medium all day smoke for around the wife or relatives.

Rating: 3.5 Puffs out of 5

-Safari Bob

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Tobacco Review: Astleys NO 44 Dark Virginia Flake

Astleys Tobacco is made in Germany by Kohlhase & Kopp (K&K) since 1979 and is currently imported by XYZ Direct, LTD. NO. 44 is a square-cut dark Virginia flake that the blender describes as "full strength." I enjoy Virginia flakes and have tried my hand at blending, stoving, and pressing one in the past. K&K describes this blend as "cold pressed" (a process with which I am not familiar) and I can hardly wait to try it.


The tobacco is dark brown with some yellow mottling, moist, cut into fragile 1 1/2" x 1" rectangles, and smells "malty" with a subtle sour hint. I rolled a few flakes into a tube and packed the tobacco into my pipe. The smoke is medium to rich in body with a subtle citrus tone and (thankfully) no trace of the McClelland ketchup. As the bowl progressed, I did notice the citrus subsided and a not unpleasant sour flavor emerged. I was expecting more spice but it is smooth and I experienced no tongue bite throughout the smoke. This flake burned evenly and slowly although I did have to re-light twice throughout the bowl. The ash is darker gray and the room note was present without overpowering.

Overall, this is a pleasant satisfying smoke that would be perfect for outside in the woods. The closest I can place this tobacco is either McClelland 2035 without the ketchup or MacBaren Roll Cake without a trace of topping or spice.

Rating: 4 Puffs out of 5

-Safari Bob

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tobacco Review: Former's Cross Grain Flake

The tobacco is medium brown with some mottling and a little dry, perhaps. The round tin opens to reveal rectangular, navy slices that have a sweet, Virginia aroma with a touch of straw.

The tobacco lights with one match and the ash is a nice white. Initially, I get a distinct sweetness and slight spiciness that is so indicative of Virginia flake. The sweetness subsides some over the smoke but I do not get any "grassy" or straw-like flavors. I should note that I do not rub-out flakes during packing.

Manufacturer's Description:

Former's Cross Grain Flake Pipe Tobacco. A full bodied "sweet" traditional Flake tobacco prepared with only the finest grade of Virginia leaf with a pinch of Perique. Aged to perfection in order to bring out the best in this cool smoking, magnificent flake. 50g tin. Made in Germany. SRP: $9.95

I think I like this better than Escudo which is probably the closest tobacco I can think of to this flake. It is certainly lighter than Escudo but along those lines. The perique does give the smoke a thickness that I enjoy as a diversion from a straight Virginia leaf.

Rating: 3 Puffs out of 5.

-Safari Bob

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Birthday Pipe-Buying Frenzy

Today I turn 40 and to celebrate, I won on eBay a collection of six BBB Christmas pipes. I first bought a BBB at the St. Louis pipe show in 1995 from out of a huge bin of pipes for $10 (those days are long gone). I was not familiar with this brand but I liked the shape. Later I was at John Denglar's pipe shop in St. Charles and I asked him about the pipe. He paused, told me to wait and then disappeared in his back room for about five minutes. He returned with a pipe catalogue from 1964 and showed me a picture of a BBB that was the same shape and finish!

Later, I traded the pipe and I always regretted it. Now I have six BBB Christmas pipes coming including the following years: 1974, 1977, 1980, 1981, 1982, and 1997. I can not wait to smoke them and I plan to display them all one one pipe rack.

-Safari Bob

Friday, November 23, 2007

Tobacco Review: Orlik Golden Sliced

This morning I finally got around to trying Orlik Golden Sliced tobacco. In 2002, Peter Stokkebbye visited our shop to give a presentation on his tobaccos. As we were chatting afterwards, I asked Peter what his favorite tobacco. He responded by producing a half-empty tin of Orlik, rolling a slice into a ball, stuffing it into his pipe, and lighting up! I ordered some for the shop but I never got around to trying it.

Here is the Manufacturer Description:

This delightful blend is composed of golden and full body Virginia tobaccos with a touch of Burley. A fine natural sweetness in both taste and aroma characterizes Orlik Golden Sliced. The cut is traditional Navy Cut Flake i. e. pressed tobacco and cut into thin slices. Rub the tobacco slices gently before filling your pipe. Made in Denmark.


The tobacco is a gold navy cut slice and smells sweet out of the tin. I do not "rub-out" my flakes to smoke the tobacco; I fold and twist. The tobacco is moist (as I like) and burns easily and slowly. I enjoy Virginias and this blend does not disappoint! I sense no hints of "straw" or hay but a nice sweetness with a subtle lemon and a touch of anise. It burns well and clean leaving a mottled light to dark gray ash. The aroma is pleasant and subtle without being "perfumey." After the initial light, I have not had to re-light even once all they way to the bottom.

If you enjoy Virginia Navy Flakes I would recommend this blend for you. So if you like Peterson University or Dunhill Light Flake then this blend is for you!

Rating: 4 Puffs out of 5

-Safari Bob

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

New Pipe Acquisition: Two WO Larsen Straight Grains

Back in the early '90's, I used to sell WO Larsen Handmade pipes. The few I smoked were among the best smoking pipes I have ever tried. I found this WO Larsen Handmade Straight Grain Smooth Straight Apple on Briar Blues and it smokes as well as I remember. I paid way too much for it, however.

This beautiful WO Larsen Straight Grain sandblast Straight Apple/Brandy is also stamped Handmade and sports a ring of what appears to be box wood or a light mahogany. It also smokes great (I am enjoying some Mac Baren Stockton in it as I type up this post) and I won it on eBay for only $66.

I remember buying WO Larsen pipes from Olie and his wife as early as 1994. They were always kind to me and I remember them with fondness.

-Safari Bob

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Chaos Under the Canopy

In a recent article on CNN, the Saudi Government would like us to understand why they felt the necessity to punish a woman who is a victim of rape. "The woman was originally sentenced in October 2006 to 90 lashes. But that sentence was more than doubled to 200 lashes and six months in prison by the Qatif General Court, because she spoke to the media about the case, a court source told Middle Eastern daily newspaper Arab News" [1].

Why was she sentenced to anything at all (let alone 90 lashes)? Apparently, the victim was being blackmailed by a person who had a photo - a harmless photo according to the Saudi Government - of her and she met with the man. "It is illegal for a woman to meet with an unrelated male under Saudi's Islamic law" [1]. Shortly after this meeting she was raped by seven men.

This is the danger of living in a state where religious dogma is institutionalized as public law. Why is mercy so rare from those who (1) are in the position to grant it and (2) empowered by sacred text to grant it? I believe it may be because dogma (or rigid interpretation of sacred texts) cannot be moved to exception - even in extreme circumstances - because it can lead to chaos (or anome).

Peter Berger argues that religion serves as a means to stave off the nightmare of chaos and create safe boundaries of order [2, p. 24]. It is institutionalized and endowed with "an ontological status to the point where to deny them is to deny being itself - the being of the universal order of things and, consequently, one's own being in this order" [2, p. 24]. Even if the Saudis wanted to grant mercy, it may have been outside of their power to do so because to question the institutionalization of Islamic law is to question their own being.

What a shame that a woman felt so threatened over a harmless picture that she would risk the lash and pay blackmail demands for its return. What a shame that a rigid Islamic law had no option but to punish when mercy was needed.

Chaos happens in this world; society tries to establish order in the world. One way a society does this is to establish religion to explain catastrophy (remember 9/11) or, as Berger notes, "religion is the audacious attempt to conceive of the entire universe as being humanly significant" [2, p. 28].


[2] Peter L. Berger (1990). The Sacred Canopy. New York: Anchor Books.

First Post: Entering the Jungle

Welcome to Smoking Safari!

Why would someone blog about smoking? I was a tobacconist at Just For Him in Springfield, MO for almost 14 years and I enjoy the hobby of pipe smoking. I do view pipe smoking as a hobby - not a vice. Many people can not accept this position and I respect that. Thankfully, we live in a society that allows people to hold different views.

I envision this blog to be composed of the following: pipe tobacco reviews, pipe blending techniques, commentary on tobacco-related news, and general 'chit-chat' about pipes that I own or bought. Occasionally I may discuss places to buy tobacco and pipes, showcase pipe and tobacco sales that I encounter, and post semi-critical articles concerning some other aspect of this wonderful hobby.

For instance, my most recent pipe acquisition is a New Era Kaywoodie Prima Bent Apple ($45 with FREE SHIPPING) from Gray Fox. Currently, Gray Fox is offering a Christmas special on many of the wonderful pipes available for purchase online. I enjoy smoking the New Era Kaywoodie pipes and I think that they are a great value for your pipe smoking dollar. Check them out at

If you agree that pipe smoking is pure pleasure then please feel free to leave me a comment. Thanks for visiting!

-Safari Bob

Friday, November 16, 2007

Logical Fallacies I have Known: Ad Ignorantiam

This is a rampant fallacy most commonly associated with conspiracy theorists, paranormal proponents, and creationists. Essentially, this fallacy contends that a specific belief is true simply because it is not known that it isn't true. For example, Shannon Edwards, in an article musing on why cemeteries are so haunted, argues the following:

It is my theory that the reason ghosts haunt cemeteries is not because they are buried there. In fact, the ghost haunting the cemetery might not even in fact be buried there. I think they reason they haunt the cemeteries is because of the time they spent there when they were alive. Even today, community churches in the rural south still hold church functions on the edges of or at times inside the cemeteries themselves. Teenagers go into old cemeteries at night to party. And we, as ghosthunters can often be found in cemeteries taking recordings and pictures. Who is to say that once we die, we might not haunt the cemeteries that we frequented most often? [1]

The opposite corollary is also used: A specific belief is not true simply because it isn't known how it can be true. For instance, creationists often ask these questions:

How could organs as complex as the eye, ear, or brain of even a tiny bird ever come about by chance or natural processes? (See page 8.) How could a bacterial motor evolve? How could such motors work until all components evolved completely and were precisely in place? (See page 19.) [2]

The problem with this fallacy is that the lack of evidence for an argument does not logically prove the argument - it supports the contrary position. If there is no evidence for naturally occurring purple monkeys then the reasonable position is that purple monkeys do not exist in nature. Also, just because someone cannot understand how something can work does not mean that it can't. For instance, I can not possibly understand how people watch American Idol and yet they do!

-Safari Bob


Thursday, November 8, 2007

Logical Fallacies I have Known: Tu Quoque

Have you ever been in an argument (debate or otherwise) and the person with whom you are arguing ignores your point and responds, "Oh yeah? Well what about you?!?!?" If so, you have experienced my least favorite logical fallacy: Tu Quoque, or 'You too.' This is a common argument tactic often developed on the playground sometime around first grade. I also think of it as 'Justifying your actions through the actions of others.'

The problem with this fallacy is that it avoids the argument all together - usually in the face of a good point. Often people that employ this tactic have no reasonable response so they side-step and try to turn the argument onto the other person. Gee...does this sound like any politician you may have heard?

-Safari Bob

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tales of Abject Horror - Happy Halloween!

Its 31 October and I am afraid. I am not terrified of ghosts, goblins, or rampaging hoardes of Uri Gellher fans but rather the implications of what CNN is reporting: "Some Christian congregations, particularly in lower income, urban areas, are turning to an unlikely source for help -- the Church of Scientology" [1].

Good Lord and butter! The implications could truly be dire! What would happen if Pentecostalism formed an unholy alliance with Tom Cruise and his band of militant scientologists? How would 'evanglism' evolve with the perfect storm convergence of the passion and tactics employed by either group in gaining converts? How would this influence the construct of 'creationism' and pseudoscience in the science classroom? Alien visitations and Intelligent Design united to reify the Star Trek mythos of 'galactic seeding' as not only alternative evolutionary theory but also church dogma!

Oooh... Scary....

I can't wait for my copy of the Bonded Leather Deluxe Thompson Chain Reference The Chariots of the Gods (red letter edition). I wonder how this will reinterpret the famous devotional My Utmost for His Highest?

-Safari Bob


Friday, October 26, 2007

Poll: Many Americans are Gullible

CNN is reporting that in a recent poll, one third of Americans believe in ghosts [1]. "The poll, conducted October 16-18, involved telephone interviews with 1,013 adults and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points." Unfortunately, CNN did not provide the survey for scrutiny.

This poll also found "Three in 10 have awakened sensing a strange presence in the room. For whatever it says about matrimony, singles are more likely than married people to say so." This experience is known as "Hag Phenomena" and is a hypnogogic hallucination often associated with sleep paralysis [2] that, although often terrifying, is harmless and natural. I do find it interesting that more people in this poll that reported this experience are single.

Also, this poll reports that 48% believe in ESP. In fact "Those who find credibility in ESP are more likely to be better educated and white -- 51 percent of college graduates compared to 37 percent with a high school diploma or less, about the same proportion by which white believers outnumber minorities." Why, oh why would more educated people be more likely to believe in ESP? I think this is simply wish fulfillment; certainly the evidence seems to debunk ESP as a natural or existing phenomenon [3]. In fact, the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research lab closed after 28 years of investigating ESP with no evidence of ESP existing [4].

This poll does support one conclusion: Many Americans are Gullible. Turn off the the 'Ghost Whisperer,' 'Medium' and "Phenomenon" TV shows and use your imagination more creatively to enjoy life rather than the pursuit of shadows.

-Safari Bob



Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Suggestion to Skeptics and Creationists - Part 2

In the debate between skeptics and creationists, the skeptics have it good. Not because they argue from a position of truth (or Truth) but because they assume a defensive position. The creationists attack some aspect of evolution (why I am still not sure) and the skeptics simply demonstrate that that attack is at least erroneous and often asinine. The creationists continue to win the battles in the hearts and minds of the population while the skeptics win in the courts (thank goodness!). I ask this question: why do the skeptics not attack creationism?

I certainly can understand why science does not attack creationism - this is not its concern. Skeptics, on the other hand, are in a unique position to take the battle to the creationist's arena. Many (if not most) Christians do not believe in a literal six day creation event (and for good reason). Simply stated, a literal six day creation is not proported by scripture - at least not in Genesis.

Genesis 1-11 is not written to be interpreted as literal events; it is poetry or allegory. Certainly fundamentalist hold to a literal interpretation but the majority of Christianity does not. Why not take the discussion of whether or not a possible literal six day creation event is even tenable within a scriptural exegesis?

The Amazing Randi has done an excellent job of debunking paranormal claims because (1) he studied the techniques they use and (2) he met (and continues to meet) them in their arena. Why do skeptics resist similar tactics with creationists? Why not take the debate to religious platforms such as magazines, blogs, and public lectures? I believe that, unlike creationists willing to infiltrate the science classroom, it is bad form to debate this subject in church meetings - unless invited - but there are other venues available.

So my advice is as follows:
1. Study some commentaries on Genesis
2. Look at some Hebrew poetry resources
3. Begin a dialogue in traditionally 'safe zones' of creationists (but not Sunday School)
4. Apply the same level of argumentation and reason to these dialogues

In a future blog I will address some reasons for Christians to be skeptical about a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11.

-Safari Bob

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Excursis: The Nature of Logic

As I prepared a lesson plan concerning Logical Fallacy in Argument, I ran across the following article: "Atheism: An Irrational Worldview" in Answers, an online creationist magazine. Frankly, I was searching for examples of logical fallacies in argument when I encountered this article that does contain many. Still, I was shocked by the following claim:

Laws of logic are God’s standard for thinking. Since God is an unchanging, sovereign, immaterial Being, the laws of logic are abstract, universal, invariant entities. In other words, they are not made of matter—they apply everywhere and at all times. Laws of logic are contingent upon God’s unchanging nature. And they are necessary for logical reasoning. Thus, rational reasoning would be impossible without the biblical God [1].

Essentially, this article appears to argue this syllogism: (1) atheists focus on a natural or material world, (2) logic is abstract and, of course, not material, and therefore (3) materialists are irrational and illogical. What a wonderful enthymeme! Here is their assertion concerning atheists and logic:

The materialistic atheist can’t have laws of logic. He believes that everything that exists is material—part of the physical world. But laws of logic are not physical. You can’t stub your toe on a law of logic. Laws of logic cannot exist in the atheist’s world, yet he uses them to try to reason. This is inconsistent. He is borrowing from the Christian worldview to argue against the Christian worldview. The atheist’s view cannot be rational because he uses things (laws of logic) that cannot exist according to his profession [2].

I am not an atheist but to assert that because someone who looks at the natural world in order to understand how it works is irrational because logic is an abstract concept..well..frankly this position is so absurd that it really merits no response. Truly this article resembles a laughable farce! All thinking and reason is abstraction; this is one attribute that identifies humanity as unique. This article, however, may demonstrate a complete escape from reality and seems to me to be an excellent example of irrational drivel. No wonder critical thinking is at a premium today.

-Safari Bob

[2] Ibid.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

A Suggestion to Skeptics and Creationists - Part 1

Why do creationists attack evolutionary theory? This may seem a silly question, at least to those embroiled in battle, but even if evolution could be debunked, this would not prove a literal creation event as recounted in Genesis. This seems to me to be a pointless exercise; after all, there seems to be enough work for proponents of literal creation to do to persuade other Christians that a literal creation event occured - let alone all the other theists (ie Jews, Hindus, Muslims, etc.). Why do they attack evolution?

Certainly proposing that creation be taught in the science classroom is asinine; even most creationist must see that it is not science. Intelligent Design theory seeks to incorporate science and religion but still cannot offer a testable hypothesis - a requirement for science. This should not be a surprise as religion and science have different methods for discovering 'truth' and both have different purposes in applying these 'truths.'

For instance, consider the category of time. Both science and religion define and struggle with such a complex human construct. In the past, the border between science and religion was more blurred in some cultures (Myan, Sumerian, etc.) but I will focus on modern science and modern fundamentalist Christianity that is most likely to assert a literal creation as portrayed by their interpretation of Genesis. Essentially, science approaches time diachronically while religion approaches time synchronically.

Synchronic time is concerned with specific events, of both the past and the future, and are tied to specific locations. This is a topic for a future post but basically this view of time conveys a sense of 'timelessness' or 'the eternal now.' The image to the left depicts an 'axis mundi' or an event in which the divine occurs and "a region impregnated with the sacred, a spot where one can pass from one cosmic zone to another" [1]. Here, a believer can often enter into an event outside of time or at one point of time that may have or may yet happen (ie Catholic Eucharist, The Great White Throne Judgement, Zion, etc.). Synchronic (eternal or sacred) time is usually seen as being recursive and outside of 'real' (diachronic or profane) time. This notion of time is central to most professions of fundamental Christianity.

Science is not concerned with sacred time but is obsessed with diachronic observation of time. The speed of light, the revolution of planets, the division of hours, and so on are defined by the direct observation of events in a natural world. Sometimes the vast periods of time boggle the mind - who can truly understand 14 billion years? - and the natural world is explained through eras. Even these are based on empirical observation and collected or demarked in such a way as to build a diachronical timeline.

My point is that science is based on the observations of a natural world while religion (in general) and fundamental Christianity (in specific) is concerned with sacred events that occur outside of diachronic time. Sacred time events cannot possibly be tested by observation - they are outside of this category. Why would creationists subject sacred ideas to profane scientific scrutiny even if this were possible? Can a literal creation event performed by a supreme being be tested and possibly falsified through direct observation?

Suggestions to Literal Creation Proponents:
1. Focus on promoting your beliefs to other theists; this is the proper arena
2. Leave science in the science classroom; it cheapens religious beliefs to center them in 'profane' time
3. Incorporate ID into religious epistemology but do not subject it to falsification

My next post will concentrate on Skeptical strategies to talk with literal creationists.

-Safari Bob

[1] Eliade, M. (1996). Patterns in Comparative Religion. Rosemary Sheed, trans. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, pp. 99-100.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Roberts Consults God on Legal Issues - God Councils Deny!

Richard Roberts, son of Oral Roberts and President of Oral Roberts University in Tulsa OK, is accused of the misappropriation of funds and tax evasion. This is unfortunate and indicative of the conduct of televangelists in our society. At least two news agencies report that Roberts has recieved word from God to deny these allegations:


At a chapel service this week on the 5,300-student campus known for its 60-foot-tall bronze sculpture of praying hands, Roberts said God told him: "We live in a litigious society. Anyone can get mad and file a lawsuit against another person whether they have a legitimate case or not. This lawsuit ... is about intimidation, blackmail and extortion." [1]

News OK:

Saying he'd spoken with God, school President Richard Roberts told students and faculty during a weekly chapel service, "Here's what he told me to say to you, ‘We live in a litigious society. Anyone can get mad and file a lawsuit against another person whether they have a legitimate case or not." [2]

I well remember in the late '80's when Oral Roberts recieved word from on high to demand 8 million dollars from the faithful or else God would 'call him home.' In fact, I tried this approach; I informed several people that God told me that they should give me $50 or 'God would punch me in the nose.' Unlike Oral Roberts, I recieved no money and I was ducking for years.

Why, oh why, does this 'God told me therefore' approach work? Can't people see it is a ruse? This kind of conduct reminds me of an old expression: "This makes my butt tired."

-Safari Bob


Friday, October 5, 2007

ESP in the USA

I was curious; is there reliable data showing how prevalient belief in ESP in the USA? Judging by new TV shows, I thought that it must be rampant. Here is what I found:

- Poll (2002): 57% Americans believe in paranormal phenomena like ESP [1]
- Poll (2005): "About three in four Americans profess at least one paranormal belief, according to a recent Gallup survey" [2].
- Article (1997?): New Poll Points to Increase in Paranormal Belief [3]

Most articles quote and compare two Gallop polls (1976 and 1986) but unfortunately I cannot get access to the actual poll numbers. USA Today and CBS seem to also have done some inquiry and then, of course, all the other non-scientific sources one can find as links to MySpace quizzes and so on. I am surprised that this data is not readily available online! I may have to investigate this phenomena myself.

-Safari Bob


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Contra Expanding Earth Theory

Understanding and sensibility, with us, can determine objects only in conjunction. If we separate them, we have intuitions without conceptions, or conceptions without intuitions; in both cases, representations, which we cannot apply to any determinate object. [1]
Immanuel Kant

I am not a scientist; I have said this before. I am a doctoral student in Technical Communication and Rhetoric (TCR) and my Master's is in Religious Studies - not Theology. I feel that this should be understood before I examine EE Theory. TCR is concerned with Rhetoric, or the art of persuasion, in writing. As such, logic and common fallacies are of primary concern in my field. In short, I study how people construct arguments and how people convey these arguments to specific audiences. In addition, one of my concentrations is research methods and methodology. I also study the Rhetoric of Science.

My particular approach to any theory is whether or not it is reasonable; is a theory based on (1) an understanding of the field in which the theory inquires and (2) is there any empirical data to support the theory? As Kant noted, without either one has only intuition without conception [2].

Neal Adams is perhaps the leading proponet of EET [3] and even a cursory glance demonstrates (to me) that he does not seem to grasp the fields of geology, astronomy, or physics in which he centers his theory. For instance he posits, "The fact is most, if not all, the mountains on Earth were created since 200 million years ago, and most of them are 60 million years old and younger" [4]. If not all? What about the St. Francois Mountain Range in the Ozark Plateau [5], as an example, which is dated to the Precambrian Era (540 Million - 3.8 Billion Years ago) [6]?

Scientists are better equipped to debate the claims of EET than I am but this theory seems to be intuitive rather than reasonable. "It is now known, and has been discovered by seismic scanning, that only 4% of the asthenosphere (under the crust) is molten and most of that, if not all, is located under the rifts. Some is under volcanic areas, to be sure, but they are the exception that proves the rule" [7]. Current studies in the asthenosphere seem to contradict this claim [8] but my point is that Adams simply dismisses any current studies; in short his conclusions seem to be based in little understanding and even less empirical data. In other words, EET seems to me to be unreasonable.

-Safari Bob

[1] Kant, I. (1990). Critique of Pure Reason. J. M. D. Meiklejohn, trans. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, pp. 166-167.
[2] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Expanding Earth Theory

I just encountered a new (to me) theory of existence: The Earth is Expanding. Proponents make an amazing claim that "The evidence is obvious, unmistakable and irrefutable!" [1]. What the frijoles is it?

As I understand it, proponents of this theory (EET) assert that the world was once much smaller but expanded, and continues to expand, due to two phenomena: (1) external accretion by the addition of comets, meteorites, and other space dust to the mass of the Earth, and (2) internal core expansion by gravitationally induced heating [2]. Various proofs for this position include:

The fallacy of the nebular hypothesis is shown very clearly in the physiographic cross-section of the Grand Canyon cliffs in Northern Arizona and the photo shown below (not pictured in this blog). These layers were laid down (accreted) as solid matter, and none show signs of having been melted at any time. These layers are positive evidence the Earth has grown steadily over time.

The bottom layers of the Grand Canyon, ~1.6 kilometers (one mile) down, go back in time almost a billion years to the Precambrian, leaving another ~6365 kilometers to Earth's center. This suggests the Earth could be much older than the 4.5 billion years now accepted as its age from radio-carbon dating of meteorites. [3]

EET also argues that continental drift, as understood today, did not occur by tectonic plates shifting and movement but rather by the Earth expanding and moving the continents apart. Subduction (the notion that oceanic plates move into and under continental masses) is fallacious and religated to the position of sophistry:

But the possibility of an expanding Earth raised a philosophical dilemma because cosmologists, geophysicists and marine geologists had always been taught the Earth has always been the same size since it was first created ~4.5-4.6 Ga (billion years ago). Surely, the Earth could not be expanding as Professor S. Warren Carey (1956, 1976) had argued!

So, when subduction was conceived (invented) in 1967 it was immediately perceived to be the solution to their dilemma, and the "Plate Tectonics Revolution" began, with subduction as its mechanism, powered by convection cells with hot magma rising to the surface in the midocean ridges (MOR) and older seafloor along continental margins being subducted (descending) back into the mantle to be re-melted and recycled back to the surface as new magma.

Now, thirty-five years later, subduction is accepted dogma throughout the world--to the detriment, unfortunately, for scientific progress because now subduction has been shown to be totally false! [4]

Wow. My next blog will contain my thoughts on this matter.


[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tele-Evangelists: Enter The God-Sharks

Why, oh why, are tele-evangelists allowed to exist? How can any reasonable person believe that tele-evangelists are anything other than predators preying on the aged, the infirmed, and the vulnerable?

Even the Christian press is critical of tele-predators and focus on how much money tele-evangelists fleece from their flocks. For instance, Robert Tilton, after a fall from grace (so to speak), is back and scamming again - and doing well. "He's doing well financially, according to the Tulsa World. The newspaper quoted records in 2003 showing he had bought a 50-foot yacht and was building a 2-story home on oceanfront property in Miami" [1]. They are like apex predators feasting with impunity on the most vulnerable; a sort of 'God-Shark' swimming through a public ocean while gobbling up as much money as they can leaving destroyed lives in their wake.

When will this foolishness stop? At least sharks serve a purpose on the food chain; what purpose do these 'hucksters' serve?

I need some mead.



Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Contra A Flat Earth

I feel as a chessman must feel when the opponent says of it: That piece cannot be moved. [1]

S. Kierkegaard

Debate with such an absurd position seems, to me, to be fruitless. Certainly the scientific community (by which I mean most geologists, astronomers, physicists, etc living today) supports a theory of a round earth (or globe); in fact I could find no credible scientists that holds an alternative position. In fact the Flat Earth Society (FES) rejects scientific evidence and scientists themselves as "the same old gang of witch doctors, sorcerers, tellers of tales, the 'Priest-Entertainers' for the common people. 'Science' consists of a weird, way-out occult concoction of jibberish theory-theology...unrelated to the real world of facts" [2]. Truly I feel like Kierkegaard's chessman.

Instead of entering into a debate with the FES, I will focus on attempting to explain it. The FES has constructed a complex and convoluted rationalization to explain (1) how the world really is and (2) why everyone else is mistaken (see [3]). I think that this phenomenon may be understood in light of Weber's construct of "rationalization."

Weber's Process of Rationalization [4]
1. Rationalization comprises clarification, specification, and systemization of ideas
2. Rationalization comprises normative control or sanction
3. Rationalization comprises a conception of motivational commitment

Also, once a religion is sufficiently rationalized (systemized and unified), its core ideas come to have a logic of their own [5]. The beliefs of the FES seem, in part at least, grounded in an extreme view of Creationism. In an interview with Charles K. Johnson - The President of the International Flat Earth Society - Robert Schadewald noted "Johnson's beliefs are firmly grounded in the Bible. Many verses of the Old Testament imply that the earth is flat, but there's more to it than that. According to the New Testament, Jesus ascended up into heaven" [6].

The concept of 'A Flat Earth' seems to come out of a tradition of Creationism and is 'rationalized' by its adherents in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence and consensus. This 'rationalization' creates its own sense of logic and solidifies (or riefies) a sense of reality through repetition and participation (in the Eliadean sense [7]) in which 'profane reality' is discarded for the construct of "mythic ontology.'

In short, good luck opening their eyes to reality.

I conclude with this thought from Weber:

Prophets and priests are the twin bearers of the systemitation and rationalization of religious ethics. But there is a third significant factor of importance in determining the evolution of religious ethics: the laity, whom prophets and priests seek to influence in an ethical direction. [8]


[1] Kierkegaard, S. (1987). Either/Or: Part I. Hong and Hong trans. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, p. 22.
[4] Weber, M. (1993). The Sociology of Religion. Talcott Parsons trans. Boston: Beacon Press, pp. xlii - xliii.
[5] Ibid. p. xiii.
[7] Eliade, M. (1991). The Myth of the Eternal Return. Princeton, NJ: The princeton University Press, pp. 34 - 48.
[8] Weber, M. (1993). The Sociology of Religion. Talcott Parsons trans. Boston: Beacon Press, p. 45.

Friday, September 21, 2007

A Flat Earth - Oh My!

I was shocked to discover that there are people in this world that believe the world is flat; even the creationists do not hold this position. How can someone argue with this position? It is simply fantastic! How would someone discover if the world is indeed flat?

I am not a scientist but I have been on an airplane. The next time you fly, look at the horizon and you will notice the curvature of the earth. Look at the stars - they rotate in the sky. What about water? On a flat earth, would it not "spill off" into the ether? Here is a FES argument about water:

Water. Regardless of which train of thought you follow, it covers over seventy-five percent of our planet's surface. And the atmosphere, also a fluid, covers the entire surface. The difference is why. While flat-Earthers know that the ocean is really just a large bowl, (with great sheets of ice around the edges to hold the ocean back), and the atmosphere is contained by a large dome, the backwards "round-Earth" way of thinking would have you believe that all those trillions of gallons of water and air just "stick" to the planet's surface. [1]

Wow. I have no idea how to address this other than concepts of gravity. Here is a snippet of FES position on gravity:

Using the "round Earth" theory, setting an object on the earth would be like setting grains of sand on a beach ball. Certainly a few grains would stay - right around the top, the surface is nearly horizontal - but when you stray too far from the absolute top of the ball, the grains of sand start sliding off and falling onto the ground. The Earth, if round, should behave in exactly the same fashion. Because the top is a very localized region on a sphere, if the Earth were in fact round, there would be only a very small area of land that would be at all inhabitable. Stray to the outside fringes of the "safe zone", and you start walking at a tilt. The further out you go, the more you slant, until your very survival is determined by the tread on your boots. Reach a certain point, and you slide off the face of the planet entirely. Obviously, something is wrong. [2]

Wow. Will science be able to persuade FES with compelling evidence?

We maintain that what is called 'Science' today and 'scientists' consist of the same old gang of witch doctors, sorcerers, tellers of tales, the 'Priest-Entertainers' for the common people. 'Science' consists of a weird, way-out occult concoction of jibberish theory-theology...unrelated to the real world of facts, technology and inventions, tall buildings and fast cars, airplanes and other Real and Good things in life; technology is not in any way related to the web of idiotic scientific theory. ALL inventors have been anti-science. The Wright brothers said: "Science theory held us up for years. When we threw out all science, started from experiment and experience, then we invented the airplane." By the way, airplanes all fly level on this Plane earth. [3] emphasis mine

Perhaps I have selected a fantastic topic to first tackle in this blog. My next blog will consist of my thoughts on the matter.


Flat Earth Society Links to Pages I quoted:

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Skepticism in West Texas


Why does religion, or at least Christianity, insist on intruding into the realm of science? Why does humanity revel in conspiracy theories? What ever happened to critical thinking? Why do people believe that aliens are attempting to communicate with humanity by destroying crops? Why do people insist that magic works?

These are some of the questions that I will explore and attempt to answer for my own sanity and to appease my own curiosity. Currently, I live in West Texas, which has no skeptical society that I can find, and this blog represents my own musings on the role of science in our culture. I consider myself a skeptic in the sense that I believe that scientific thought and process is being erroded by epistemological relativism in our American culture and that the scientific method is the best method for examining a natural world.

I do not know where this blog will lead; I have no idea where I will begin. I guess that I will just start at the genesis of where my curiosity began.

-Safari Bob