The greatest trick the devil ever pulled

Geez. Talk about raining on the parade:

We have examined the science behind three of the most popular pseudoscientific beliefs encountered in Hollywood movies. For two of them — the idea of ghosts and vampires — we have shown that they are inconsistent and contradictory to simple facts. For one of them — the idea of zombies — we have made no attempt to deny that it relies on real cases. However, we have reviewed evidence showing that the concept is a misrepresentation of simple criminal acts.

Among other things, the authors of this study use their “science” to show that vampires and other undead menaces cannot exist. More commentary here.

A fun read, but one gets the impression that the authors are probably the sort of people who turn to everybody else during the Star Wars trench run scene and loudly remark (with an irritating smirk on their faces) that there’s no way you’d be able to hear the explosions in the vacuum of space. You know, the sort of people who are pretty smart but who need to be slapped every now and then.

On the other hand: if I were a vampire interested in throwing potential Van Helsings off of my trail, this is exactly the sort of report I would stealthily author and then publicize. I don’t see an “Al U. Card” listed as one of the authors, which hurts that theory a bit, but one can always hope.

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2 thoughts on “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled

  1. Brit

    His argument against Vampires doesn’t hold up very well when you start to stray from his initial assumptions (i.e. that every vampire in existence creates another vampire every month).
    Anyway, it reminded me of another paper I read a while back about ecology and carrying capacity – applied to the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” universe. Essentially, he assumes a human population growth rate and a vampire feeding rate and calculates the sustainable ratio of vampires to humans.
    Regarding the bigger question, I’m not quite sure how this applies to the fine-tuning argument. My own opinion is that the fine-tuning argument is exaggerated by apologists and there is an echo-chamber effect where people continually repeat grandiose claims of perfect tuning. I read an article a while back by Victor Stenger (an astronomer), where he described an computer experiment where he varied four fundamental forces: the proton and electron masses and the strengths of the electromagnetic and strong forces. He varied them by 10 orders of magnitude up and down from their actual values, and was able to produce long-lived stars (1 billion years+) in over 50% of those cases. Now, long-lived stars are one precondition for life, but it’s not the only one. But my point is that I’m sure most people arguing the “fine-tuning” argument would be completely surprised by that result. It makes me a little bit skeptical that the details of the fine-tuning argument (“two dozen demandingly exact physical constants” set to a “minuscule degree”) is really an accurate statement.

  2. Andy

    Brit, I agree on your first point there, and almost said so in my post. Many versions of the vampire myth make the creation of vampires an intentional act, not a natural byproduct of being bitten by one. So it’s quite possible to imagine a careful vampire feeding on a pool of victims indefinitely without ever killing a victim or creating another vampire.
    I can’t really comment on your critique of fine-tuning apologists, but it sounds interesting!

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