Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Evolution of Belief

Evolutionary models explain how humans evolved social brains that were optimal for conformity to group norms, and that means they will adopt whatever ideas, rituals, art, attitudes, etc. that identifies tribal association.  That's why someone from Denver is more likely to wear a Broncos jersey rather than people living in othe cities with their own football team.  Or why people in the USA are more likely to be some form of Christian and people in the Middle East more likely to be Muslim.  People affiliate and then defend affiliation for various reasons, but most certainly involves a degree of denial. F1fan

How do you determine which group norms are untrue?  If one gains social status (in Denver) from arguing that John Elway, or whomever is the greatest Quarterback in the religion of the NFL is this denial that there may be other quarterbacks that may be in the running? Is it a false belief? Is it a disfunctional belief in Denver?  Do you think a Bart Starr fan store selling nothing but Packer and Starr paraphernalia would be successful in Denver?

Is your belief that there is no guiding force behind evolution necessarily true?  Does a plurality of Gods indicate that there must be none or "One ring to rule them all" including the god of unguided evolution?

Perhaps the human brain evolved to conform to group norms and accept those group norms as true, since arguing the falsity of group norms carries social penalties up to and including death by torture.  Including arguing against secular beliefs. 

Atheists still are subject to social sanctions for arguing against the prevailing religious beliefs of a country or state.  Does this mean atheism is false?  Does it mean atheism is true?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

WEPC, Morality and Humanism


In my opinion, preaching the innate superiority of Western European Protestant Culture as he is doing skirts very close to fascism.amcolph

You realise that you are insulting the majority of atheists who post here, amcolph?  For them, morality is mere fashion, and Twenty-First Century Western Liberal Culture (which is a not-very-developed development of "Western European Protestant Culture") is the zeitgeist which molds their fashion, so it must be "superior".  Thus, for example, they frown on slavery because Western Liberal Culture considers slavery to be "bad"; but in the rest of the world, slavery is the norm. Thus, again, they consider women to be full members of society, equal to men; but in the rest of the world, women are chattels of men.Lavengro

The morality of many of the atheists who post here is humanism which is complete and utter repudiation of the elitist "Western European Protestant Culture" (WEPC).  The WEPC is being dragged, kicking and screaming, to a more humanistic morality. 

Humanists oppose slavery, all forms including wage slavery, as slavery only benefits the fascist elite and the syncophant WEPC priests/preachers/pastors/vuvuzelas who provide God's moral blessing on the fascist elite in exchange for a tithe.  But as one of the elite warns, the pitchforks are coming. Here as well as the rest of the world.  In the immortal Janis Joplin line "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose."

The rest of the world is finding out that women as chattels of men is not working too well as women gain control over their fertility.  Hobby Lobby notwithstanding.  That minimum wage slavery is easy to buy into and an independent nuliparous woman can use it as a springboard to personal fulfillment while working men's egos for pleasure and additional support without a care about hosting some prick's seed.  She may choose to do so but the choice is hers in the US as well as India, China, and much of the western world.  So much for WEPC misogyny.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Origins of Morality

I have an extremely rational and objective basis for my morality.  It started at 2 or 3 when I was taught not to hurt other friends even accidentally because they would avoid me in the future and I would have no friends to play with.  Simple, rational, objective, social consequence based morality.  As I got older the definition of hurt and responsible behavior that defined the morality became more complex and stringent, but it was very simple.  If you want to play in this society you must be responsible for your behavior and avoid hurting the people who are part of it.   

The society which I choose to identify as my own is the society of highly educated, intelligent, cosmopolitans.  The definition of hurt includes the treatment of any other person as a lesser being, to be exploited or used in any way that is detrimental to their own interests. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Belief as Life


I don't think that problem is a matter of 'religion' at all!   There are some individuals, yes, who DO use religion as a substitute for making their own choices based on their own thought.

But then there are people who will NEVER go against their political party's most idiotic 'talking points'.  And people who insist on defining absolutely EVERY situation according to their political rubric. -  LeahOne

Some believers, and believers come in many varieties, religious, political, ethnic, even local sport team fanatics, have no ability to evaluate their beliefs.  This is attributed by scientists studying the phenomenon to an imbalance in risk of countering belief and accepting it unquestioning.  As a result information contrary to the belief system is not even registered in the brain of the believer.  See The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer for an accessable discussion of this science.  It is well documented for those wishing to check his conclusions.  

Simply, the cost of losing ones major social support group due to shunning as a heretic is so high, relative to the value of intellectual integrity, that the brain rejects without recognition any challenge to the beliefs of the social support group.

Or one might ask 'Does a true atheist put so much effort into attacking religion, as opposed to simply explaining - and defending - atheism?' -   LeahOne
The question for atheists is not as unrelated as it might seem.  There is no belief system or social support group associated with "True atheism" that conditions the brain to trigger either confirmation bias or self-justification bias.  While there are some atheist groups that resemble religions, typically the group conformity imperative is very weak.  Atheists even argue about and with their "Four Horsemen" anti-theists. 

Even on a board like this which attracts atheists who like to discuss religion, "attacks" are not on religion in general, but on specific religious or politico-religious beliefs that strongly affect atheists. There are a few exceptions to add a bit of spice to the board, but you will notice that most of the atheists here attack specific beliefs brought up by theists rather than the religion of the theist promoting those beliefs.  Even for those way out there on the belief irrationality scale are challenged on specific beliefs rather than their religion itself. I find it amusing that a specific religion is challenged here more by the theists participating than the atheists. 

One of the problems for atheists in challenging specific strongly held tenets of belief systems is that the challenge is interpreted by the believing brain as a general challenge to the belief system rather than a challenge to a small and perhaps unimportant part of the belief system.  And the believing brain overreacts to protect the belief system as a whole rather than just the specific challenge.  This is a necessary reaction of the believing brain, as any crack in the belief monolith can have disastrous consequences.  

We have on occasion on beliefnet seen the disastrous effects of an "insignificant crack" in a belief system, and may be seeing it in a creationist who has admitted just recently that God's real world creation may be another source of information to supplement the biblical account.  It will bear watching.  She is quite old, but may still have time to let her intrinsic reason and intelligence take over to reject Creationism for a more reasonable version of Christianity.  She seems to be relatively isolated, so the social support group may not be significant.  

Major cracks in the belief system especially life style choices incompatible with the belief system are obvious and traumatic breaks with family and friends in a tight belief circle, but as these frequently take place in a diverse school setting with other social support groups to replace the church family they are normally successful.   

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Animal Grouping for Survival


Evolutionary science of social animals indicate that for survival most members of the social group, whether it is a herd, a tribe, a pod, a pack, or whatever,  are genetically programmed to follow the leader, without question, even over the cliff.  Secularists are not immune to this programming, see the Secular Humanist Manifesto, Modern Paganism, The Human Potential movement, Western Buddhism, sundry woo-woo gurus, etc.

There is also strong survival programming for those separated from the social group for whatever reason, including refusal to jump the cliff, to find others of their species to start a new social group to continue the species.  The new social group will create new leaders to provide coherence and stability, and not incidentally protect the social group from predation frequently from others of the same species. 

I just spent a weekend at a popular convention where people gathered to find Dungeon Masters to lead them into battle and adventure.  The attendees were by and large well educated, secular, comfortable financially, but in need of a group adventure temporary and fantasy but nonetheless a group experience.  See also any sport fanatic. 

Life Before Death


I have considered the various fables of after death existence, reincarnation, physical or emotional resurrection, and find them all manipulative to distract the individual from paying attention to a personal contribution to society.  I choose, in the words of Forrest Church, "To live a life worth dying for." 

I see life after death every time I read a favorite book by a dead person, when I think about the lessons in self reliance taught by a special uncle on a pack trip into the high Sierra when I was 10, when I remember the importance of giving pleasure to strangers when my sister played an impromptu concert in a department store lobby on the display piano, and standing up to authority when she said to the guard "The rope is to save it for me."

I could go on endlessly and do in quiet moments of reflection.  I think I have Paid it Forward by doing my part for others, by teaching the lessons I have learned and creating some of my own.  I am content with my legacy, which is, not incidentally, a gift from a deceased person.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Happiness and Suffering.

What awareness has you come to you through happiness?  What awareness has come through suffering?  -  Seefan

Happiness, both for those important to me and for myself brings awareness that my behavior especially my social behavior is correct and moral.  Technically it means that dopamine and serotinin are stimulating the social awareness compliance centers in the brain to produce the feeling of pleasure in complying with social rules for good behavior.  

Suffering, both for those important to me and for myself means that something is seriously awry in my social system and I must do whatever is necessary to repair the damage.  As an example I hear a baby crying in a burning building indicating that it is suffering.  Since a universal evolutionary imperative for social animals is to protect the next generation at any cost including a serious threat of survival for the adult, I am compelled to enter the probably fatal environment to attempt to get the baby out.  If I can get the baby out of a window safely, the dopamine and serotinin will activate the social compliance centers to mitigate the pain and suffering I feel from the fire.  If I can get out the window myself great, if not I have done the socially necessary thing and will die happy as the building collapses around me.  

Please note that death is the other bookend to my life and nothing follows.  My social group may remember me as a hero, but I won't be aware of that except momentarily as the building collapses.  But no matter. I have done other beneficial things for my society, and when death comes the dopamine and serotinin will flood the social compliance centers so at death I will be happy and I will indeed rest in peace.   

No God. Just evolutionary success that allows the baby to live to enjoy my legacy.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Morals as Thought Police

I think you are confusing morality with social justice.

Morality at least for those of us that don't get it from some deity, is a way of policing one's own thinking.  I think that is what Jesus was getting at with the message about mental adultery. If you are thinking about adultery/rape rather than simply enjoying the scenery, assuming that adultery/rape is a defined problem for you, then I would suggest you have a moral issue you need to deal with.  

Occasionally there will be moral conflicts that need to be resolved, but if you are truly responsible for your behavior you need to resolve those conflicts at the mental level before any action is taken. Jesus or a surrogate isn't going to pat you on the head, tell you to say three Hail Mary's, and don't do it again.  A responsible person must insure that it can't happen. 

Manners, Atheists and Free Will.

Those who do recognize their own authority rests in their own moral sense and thinking mind have the chance to operate with a sort of free will.

At least God gives believers the option to be moral or not.  Forget for the moment forgiveness of sin.  At least there is a choice.  In my experience the subconscious social rules in big things and little like manners learned at mama's knee allow no choice at all.  One can reason about them, but only in quiet contemplation not in the activities of life. 

Good manners were drilled into this atheist right down to which fork to use for what course.  I still find myself changing forks to eat melon after breakfast.  I learned to eat Chinese food and use chopsticks as an adult and learned Chinese table manners along with chopsticks. 

Now picture a very high class Chinese Wedding, as one of the few Euro-Americans at the wedding, the groom was far from friends and family, I was seated at the bride's mother's table with the groom's few family members.  As a courtesy the table was set with English tableware.  All went well until the duck course where I was visibly distressed to be unable to eat the 2 in. cube of meat and bones with my fork.  The hostess suggested that if I didn't like it I should pass, I gathered my wits and very courteously asked for chopsticks so I could enjoy it as it was a special treat.  That shut up the shrill voice in my head as my mother knew nothing at all about chopsticks.   

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Values and Morality

If our values are not policing our thoughts immoral actions would be all to common.  See any fervent believer that does as told without even applying a value test.  Believer in the Shermer sense which may or may not have anything at all to do with religion. 

I do see values as different from morality, as the values are axiomatic and morality is the expression of those values.  A value of radical respect for all people doesn't do much good when the perp is attacking.  Morality is the mental activity of deciding what the proper reaction to the attack is. 

Source of morality

We all get our concepts of good and evil, right or wrong from the same place: The local society we grew up in, very slightly modified by adult reasoning about morality. 

You say your morality is from a Moral Law Maker. It isn't really. It is from your family, (hat tip to Robert Fulghum) your kindergarten teacher, your Sunday School teachers,  and your play groups which were probably selected from church relationships of your parents.  They all had in common a belief in a Moral Law Maker, God or Jesus depending on the church community. (Off topic my guess would be Jesus.) All moral instructions were of the form share this, don't hit, respect your elders, don't take the toy that isn't yours, etc. because Jesus won't like it if you don't do it. 

I grew up in a secular society and my friends and I learned from family, (hat tip toRobert Fulghum) kindergarten teacher, and play groups which were selected from secular relationships of  parents. All moral instructions were of the form share this, don't hit, respect your elders, don't take the toy that isn't yours, etc. because that is what we humans do. 

Please note in either case nothing is really learned, the admonitions are simply reinforcing the genetic necessities of intelligent social living.   

Friday, April 4, 2014

HowMuch Sleep is Enough

It depends on genetics.  A good article can be found at
Excerpt: Unfortunately, for most of us, sleep is the one non-negotiable. To operate optimally, 90 percent of the human population needs somewhere between seven to nine hours a night, says Ying-Hui Fu, a human geneticist at the University of California-San Francisco. She estimates that a small segment of the population -- about 3 to 5 percent – needs less than 6.5 hours, while an even smaller sliver (Fu places it at less than one percent) can function normally on less than five hours.
As one of the miniscule percentage 'tis nice.


If you think you might be a short sleeper the consistent wake time usually to the minute seems to be the characteristic to be aware of even on the first day off after a long week. (Or two.)  One short sleeper I talked to trained himself to "Feet on the floor at 4:44" every day.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dual Careers and Sex

Excerpt from Amanda Hess in Slate
Gottlieb’s story relies heavily on a 2012 study (PDF) published in the American Sociological Review that found that when men in heterosexual marriages performed chores that are traditionally coded as feminine—like “folding laundry, cooking or vacuuming”—the couple had sex less frequently. But if the husband performed traditionally masculine chores, like mowing the lawn or taking out the trash, the couples “reported a 17.5 percent higher frequency of sexual intercourse”—and the wives were more sexually satisfied, too. The data on which the study is based was collected 20 years ago, when the husband who cooks dinner or does the dishes was still an anomaly, but Gottlieb cites one contemporary couple she’s treated in her psychotherapy practice as further evidence of the trend. The couple came to her looking for help distributing their career and household duties but found that once their responsibilities were balanced, their sex life suffered. The wife claimed that she was highly sexually attracted to her husband ”when you’re just back from the gym and you’re all sweaty and you take off your clothes to get in the shower and I see your muscles,” but that desire turns to irritation when the husband tossed his dirty clothes onto the floor, sparking an argument about his failure to vacuum the house. “So if I got out the vacuum, then you’d be turned on?” the husband asked. “Actually, probably not,” she replied. “The vacuuming would have killed the weight-lifting vibe.”

J'C rant here:

To the lady for whom the weight lifting vibe was turned off by vacuuming: Get out of that business suit, buy a Victoria Secret's maid uniform, do the vacuuming yourself and be ready when he comes home from the gym after a hard days work sucking up to the boss to pay for the secret.

As one who has been there, and done that with two high powered jobs and two high maintenance kids in the household, sex frequently was a cuddle in bed before sleep.  If we both had any energy left the cuddle might get more active, but the sexual attraction in either case was two multifaceted jobs at work and at home well done for the benefit of the family. 

Having to be turned on by some socially mandated "vibe" misses the point of sexual equality in the first place.  If one is a sex object on either side of the bed.  Forget the equality, you will never understand.  Go buy the maid outfit and find a partner that can afford it in exchange for sex. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Is Death an Extinction?

Is death an extinction

In the sense of the particular body, certainly.  In the sense of the whole person probably not.  That person has influenced others and for better or for worse that person will be remembered by those influenced.  "Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them."  Actually God is a piker.  The iniquity of some is visited on human memories for millennia, if only in myth.  

On the other side of the moral ledger those that have enriched human culture will be remembered as long a people can make music and tell stories.  Homer, Jesus, Shakespeare, Palestrina, Mozart and countless others are long since returned to the stardust of their origins.  To say they are extinct is the raving of a fool.  One can easily understand that the kid that sang "Twinkle, twinkle little star" or more likely "Ah vous dirai-je, Maman," to Mozart still lives on in Mozart's 12 Variations. 

Pain and Death and Morality

Humans and other social animals work very hard to eradicate pain because pain is next to death on the spectrum of things to try to avoid. There is a problem, however, in that humans have been inventing tools, weapons and machines that are designed to inflict pain and death in order to conquer and use other humans for thousands of years. Somebody want to continue this thought? I don't know exactly where to go with it. .christine3

Inflicting pain and death is part of survival for predators and frequently pain and risk of death are part of predation.  And humans are certainly predators.  Avoiding pain and death is a characteristic more of prey than predators, and social prey animals develop moral strategies to minimize pain and death for the social unit.  One universal moral imperative is protect the next generation at any cost.  Although it might be argued that this is a species survival instinct rather than a moral precept for our purposes the difference is probably insignificant. 

The real problem for humans is that they are both prey and predators.  In tribal societies (aren't we all) especially nomadic tribes resources are generally controlled by other humans and tribal survival means better killing tools, weapons and machines and not incidentally tribal moral imperatives that encourage their use.  Kill or subdue all the heathen, gentiles, or other "non-humans" that is, not us,  with the fear of pain and death.   It is no accident that religious morals distinguish strongly between "us" and "them" and discourage any sympathy or empathy for them. 

It is perhaps significant that the "thems" have not only developed highly efficient defensive killing and pain inflicting weapons, but have also developed more inclusive moral imperatives that recognize others as important as well.  Probably the most radical and important moral innovation of the Enlightenment was that all are equal.  OK all men, but that was the critical break with the "Us v. Them" morality.  And put the human race on the slippery slope to the humane treatment of all.  There are still those trying to claw their way back up the slope to the rock of hatred, frequently led by God the rock, but those "defensive" horror weapons in the hands of the relatively enlightened are formidable intimidators of the remaining predator humans. 

Interestingly one of the most intimidating of those weapons is the Enlightenment idea that all are equal.  The people in the streets have no fear of pain or death, and can in fact defy the most powerful offensive weapons.  See Tiananman Square or Kent State University. Certainly many were hurt and killed, but the mores of the world were radically changed.

Incidentally, I would put pain as a much greater fear than death. Suicide is a common solution to pain, emotional and physical. Three banksters seem to have heard the call to jail them and fear the pain that will be inflicted if those calls are implemented.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Late Pleistocene Predators.

The following is speculation pure and simple, but based on narrow science discoveries with a lot of help from the speculations of Jon Franklin in The Wolf in the Parlor .
Neanderthals were well adapted as European top predators in the late Pleistocene strong, large brained, robust and skillful hunters of large game.  They may even have preyed on Homo Sapiens, at least they toyed with Homo sapiens women.  Neanderthal DNA in the main H. Sap. genome with no mitochondrial DNA from Neanderthals would indicate that the preying was all one way.  It would seem that Homo sapiens mostly stayed out of their way where the ranges overlapped.

The other major top predator, particularly of smaller game that was probably the primary meat source of H. Sap was the wolf.    Wolves were skillful pack hunters and based on the ancient stories of wolf predation on humans may have been the primary predator of humans.   But some of the wolves apparently lost the pack hunting skills/instincts of other wolves and began to hang around human habitations.  Living on the abundant garbage of the frequently moving humans.  These "follower wolves" presumably also prey of wolf packs developed a herd type organization with a bark instead of a howl to warn of predators.  This predator warning was also useful to the humans who could respond intelligently to threats.  Over time Franklin speculates that the more docile of the follower wolves were co-opted as herd protectors, and most important as baby sitters and companions for the elderly and infirm.  An instinct/skill retained from the pack wolves.

The combined skills of the human-dog symbiote as Franklin speculates were critical in becoming the top predator in the Late Pleistocene.  I  suspect the extinction of the big game for whatever reason either over hunting by Neanderthals or climate change eliminated them from the comfortable niche they dominated, but the wolves remained as a major contender for the top spot.

Genesis 3:16

DotNotInOz wrote:

The Garden of Eden story is one of the nastiest in the Bible. It was a setup from the get-go.

Somebody wanted to explain why people so often have "grass greener" syndrome, why we have to work, why women have labor pains and, generally speaking, why men get themselves in trouble when they listen to women.

How much you wanna bet a man who liked playing the misogyny card came up with that story?
teilhard wrote:
Every Mythological Story has some Level of "explanatory" Aspect ...

No Doubt MANY Women throughout History have resonated to Genesis 3:16 -- " Pain you shall bring forth Children, yet your Desire shall be for your Husband ... "

Just to refresh your memory as to how this started.  You used the truncated Gen 3:16 to counter(?) or justify the accusation of misogyny.  Incidentally using Bible quotes to justify anything on an atheist board is generally a bad idea.

Nonetheless, linking the undeniable pain inherent in childbirth to the wrath of God and suggesting that women should "resonate" by associating the pain of childbirth with the dominance of the husband, is just what Christine and I have been talking about as one of the horrible exploitive aspects of the Abrahamic religions.  As I noted before Gen 3:16 is the worst verse in the Bible for half of the human population.  And in my opinion for men as well as it justifies abuse of women which degrades men as well as women.  On the other thread you indicated that owning slaves was degrading for slave owners.  Does abusing women cause similar approbation from you and your religious tradition?  It certainly does from my humanist tradition and I would submit from the tradition of Jesus as well.  

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Why I Live.


Why do you desire to accomplish well your endeavors? Are you pleased with your creations / your accomplishments?  - 

Since they are in fact the meaning of life or at least mine, I had better accomplish my endeavors well, as they are how I affect others in my community, and how I will be remembered by them.  Overall I am quite pleased with my creations and accomplishments.  I chose most of them carefully as being beneficial to my community, and molded and shaped them to the best of my ability to
continue in the paths I set them on. Sooner or later I will die, leaving to my community my creations, my accomplishments, and "This valuable and useful space which I have occupied temporarily"  John Dobbs, atheist, from Legacy.  

Sunday, December 8, 2013

More on Historical Jesus

A rational analysis of the available data admittedly limited to the Gospels and some recently discovered Gnostic writings, shows that the Nazarene cults centered on Jesus were popular enough that a century after his death they were documented by literate followers of the major cults centered on the male disciples.  A year or so after his death the cults were important enough that Saul was sent out by the Romans (Jews?) to suppress them.  After his famous incident on the road to Damascus, Paul found it necessary to promote the leader of these cults to his Christ, either as a political move to co-opt the cults, or as a cynical move to debase the populist leader to a conventional God.  In either case it worked and Christ became conflated with Jesus as "Jesus Christ."    In any event it was necessary to canonize the Gospels when Christianity became the official religion of the Empire.  Permitting a clandestine few to retain the populist, humanist ideals of Jesus with the Holy Bible as their writ albeit a la Jefferson a whole bunch of the NT was ignored.  The Enlightenment may be the flowering of these clandestine cults.  The parallels between the populist, humanist teachings of Jesus and the Enlightenment are apparent to all who wish to look with an open mind. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Social Reality


I think of morality as a socially generated reality.  It is not coexistent with physical or science reality as there is no way to measure it directly. It becomes real over time with a steep learning curve in childhood, and eventually becomes internalized as conscience. 

Like all realities it can change as new information is internalized, but by adulthood new information is strongly blocked by the belief system in the brain.   There are several other socially generated realities, religion and politics are the most prominent, and status of other humans seems to be another social reality, which is in my view independent of morality.  Morality deals only with "My people" whatever that means to the particular individual.

All socially generated realities are real only for the individual although within a small tight social group there may be many commonalities. 

Understanding social reality may be a key to dealing with others who may have a completely different reality.  Fundies as an example inhabit a reality that may even exclude physical science as real.  Pretending that they are deluded only complicates the issue of dealing with them rationally.  Presenting facts that conflict with social realities as fact is ineffective in dealing with the social reality of the fact denier.