Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Science as a Bridge to God

The blue roads of thinking: The Human Condition:
To restore to science as a whole, for mathematics as well as psychology and sociology, the sense of its origin and veritable destiny as a bridge leading toward God---not by diminishing, but by increasing precision in demonstration, verification and supposition---that would indeed be a task worth accomplishing.
Simone Weil

Religion in so far as it is a source of consolation is a hindrance to true faith; and in this sense atheism is a purification. I have to be an atheist with that part of myself which is not made for God. Among those in whom the supernatural part of themselves has not been awakened, the atheists are right and the believers wrong.
- Simone Weil, Faiths of Meditation; Contemplation of the divine
the Simone Weil Reader, edited by George A. Panichas (David McKay Co. NY 1977) p 417

J'C: So we come full circle. To restore to science its destiny as a bridge leading toward God it must be purged of that religious view of humans as God's failure to create, at the very least, a species with no need for a re-birth mediated by religion but fully capable of themselves awakening the supernatural connection to God. All scientists I know who have made this connection, and they are many as I tend to live in a science dominated world, see their mission in science not as saving their souls, but to discover the world God has created with themselves as an integral part of it along with all other humans. They have purged themselves of the need for consolation or salvation of their religion and have made that direct empowering connection to God. Most Christian scientists have done this by a return to the Synoptics and the empowering first Commandment "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." [Emphasis mine.] There is no room in that commandment for consolation or salvation.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Purpose of Life

The blue roads of thinking: Is atheism compatible with God?: Comments: December 28, 2009 5:17 PM

J'C; ...Plus 5 for Fulghum, and 5 more for All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.
I haven't found a God that can help any more than that.

EI: The 'points' should be yours; yours is the brilliant mind that recognized the value of Fulgham's ideas and pointed me toward him; I was just following your lead.

Thank You,

J'C: Fulghum is one of those rare people who speak profoundly in words we all can understand, and even get a chuckle out of if we can restrain ourselves from ROFL.

I get no points for having been introduced to his work, or introducing others. It is simply a necessity in the purpose of my life.

The Human Condition

The blue roads of thinking: Is atheism compatible with God?:
The human condition is such that we are incapable without the help of grace of coming to objectively experience the human condition in order to reconcile it. Our defense mechanisms are too strong.
Nick A
J'C: Perhaps a good Apologetic, but certainly not a general statement about the human condition. Many humans think of the East Asians as an example do very will objectively experiencing the human condition without Grace. Some use various forms of meditation as a way to focus on the human condition, and rid themselves of the defense mechanisms but it is done without external help. Many well educated westerners particularly those without a strong indoctrination for dependence on God are able to experience the human condition, objectively, subjectively, or spiritually without the need for grace from God or other. I am well studied in the human condition, not because grace showed me the way, but because I was indoctrinated to be aware of it from my earliest conscious moments.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Each religion is alone true.

The blue roads of thinking: Materialism and God:
Each religion is alone true, that is to say, that at the moment we are thinking of it we must bring as much attention to bear on it as if there were nothing else...A 'synthesis' of religion implies a lower quality of attention.
Simone Weil

C'J: In a long lifetime of studying, and learning from religions, it is necessary to suspend disbelief to this extent to get anything from them. When I am singing a Mass it it impossible to do it right or learn from the experience if there are any reservations about God or the belief set you are singing about.
One of the reasons I do not attempt to build a coherent whole from what I learn is that not only are they alone true, they are also alone false. I suspect that if any had been true in the sense of having a true connection to God, I would have by now found God. Unlike Simone, the fact that all religions are alone false led me not to God but to a cosmopolitan understanding of morality, meaning and purpose in life.

Friday, December 25, 2009

What is Science?

If science is based on process and obscured with unfamiliar words, it nonetheless grew out of a fundamentally human, childlike curiosity. What makes the sky blue, why does ice float, what is "blood," how does the mind work? What child fails to ask those questions? What child fails to draw what she sees, or sing what he knows.
Jon Franklin, The Wolf in the Parlor, 2009. p.3.

In fifty-eight words he has explained to everyone what scientists have been trying to tell as long as scientists have been doing science, and everybody else has been asking WTF are you guys doing? Just brilliant.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Is atheism compatible with God?

The blue roads of thinking: Materialism and God:
Religion in so far as it is a source of consolation is a hindrance to true faith; and in this sense atheism is a purification. I have to be an atheist with that part of myself which is not made for God. Among those in whom the supernatural part of themselves has not been awakened, the atheists are right and the believers wrong.
- Simone Weil, Faiths of Meditation; Contemplation of the divine
the Simone Weil Reader, edited by George A. Panichas (David McKay Co. NY 1977) p 417

Nick A.: This is far easier for me to accept since I've experienced a bit of this transition. Yet I am interested how you and other atheists would react to her observation.

Is it difficult for an atheist to be open to the possibility that something has not opened in them as of yet to experience the real meaning of the essence of religion? Does it seem too elitist to consider? Yet IMO the atheist is quite right to react to the imagination of those who call themselves religious. Atheism then is a necessary purification."

J'C: Perhaps the purification Weil is talking about is the purification from the religious intercession between believers and God. A major cause of atheism is really paying attention to the religious teachings of the major religions and then committing the mortal sin of thinking about them. At that point the only thing left for those needing God is a direct personal relationship with God unmediated by religion. I think this is what Weil is talking about.

There are many people who are overwhelmed by the challenges of life and find the need for God either directly as the mystics strive for, or mediated by religions. Others of us see the challenges as just that, obstacles to overcome. Including the huge challenge of inevitable death. If an individual is unable to cope, that yearning for God gives an escape. I suspect most atheists are past that. I know I have examined many of the religious avenues of escape and found none including direct relationship with God that worked for me. This is not a rejection of religion. I have learned much about living and dying from religion. It is just a celebration of my human yearning for interdependence only with other humans. There is no part of my life that I feel a need to cede to God.

Monday, December 21, 2009


Is atheism a belief system? - Beliefnet
I have no beliefs. Belief gets in the way of learning.
Lazarus Long: Time Enough For Love, Robert A Heinlein, 1973 p20.

J'C "This policy has served me well since I adopted it shortly after the book came out."
MANY People of VARIOUS 'Faith' Communities
endorse/embrace one or more
'Sacred Texts' ...

J'C: "I will readily admit I have learned more about living from avowedly fictional texts 'This is a work of fiction, any resemblance to actual persons or places is purely coincidental' usually by atheist authors than I have ever learned from 'Sacred Texts' or Liturgies or Creeds which I have studied extensively. The quote itself makes the thought of Time Enough For Love or any other fiction as something to believe in an oxymoron."

J'C: I think the difference is, from another of my fictional reread texts East of Eden, Steinbeck, is that Sacred Texts say "Thou Must" and the fiction says "Thou Mayest." Steinbeck was wrestling with the story of Cain and God's command "Timshel" usually translated as Thou Shalt (triumph over sin,) occasionally as "Thou must." "Timshel" take control over your behavior, take responsibility for your actions, especially your sins, and you may become a better person because of the learning experience and triumph over the mistakes you have made.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Materialism and God

God and Consciousness - Beliefnet
Reality is anchored by a principle known as The Primacy of Existence; “Something that has objective existence in Reality exists independent of any observation.” This is quite obviously a materialistic notion and I also believe this idea is the key to most objections to Materialism. The wish that things having subjective existence could somehow be or become things having objective existence is one of the mantras of the “A-Materialist.”
J'C: "The only problem I have with materialism and the Primacy of Existence is, as I told Blü on a different thread, that it is boring. I have no interest at all in the subjective having an objective existence. I am quite happy with it being subjective. Art, music, fiction, myths, gods, and rituals all mean exactly nothing to the materialist since they admittedly exist only in the minds of those that can understand them. Each understanding of the subjective entity is subtly or grossly different, but people can agree on some of the important features of the entity. God may be supernatural, natural, imaginary, or a delusion in rare cases, but it is at the very least something that someone, lets call them a believer, finds to be important in their lives. One can argue all night that God has no material existence. (Not with me. I stipulate it in the first few seconds and everybody gets pissed. The materialists go off and rub the belly of the material Buddha, and the Buddhists go off in another corner to discuss the issue of non-material suffering. I go read a novel.) I find it much more interesting to find out why an intelligent, rational person can and does find God to be important in their lives."

A tree falls in the forest. Who cares whether or not the compression waves in the atmosphere qualify as noise or not. It just doesn't matter. I think this was ultimately my problem with Chemistry which was my boyhood choice of a career that lasted through my Sophomore year in college. I just couldn't get worked up about how a rocket went up. It was much more fun to deal with the absolutely subjective and political issues of getting someone to buy it so it could go up. If a car salesman thinks hesh is selling a material object, hesh had better find a job in a factory building cars. What heah is selling is prestige, practicality, social status, or political correctness. They all work to move the iron. Some of the worst salespeople are materialists, they try to sell the technology, the intercooler, and the V4. They might as well try to sell the frame. It does not work.

The Creation of Eve

The birth of Eve - Beliefnet:

"Agnostic wrote:

You're absolutely right. Clearly Eve was a divine creation, separate from Adam. Eve was created in the divine image of God Herself. In contrast, Adam evolved from primates with lower intelligence. It should be obvious that women are innately superior to males.

The Bible shows this. The very name for 'the Lord' is Yahvah. Eve in Hebrew is Chavah. If you look at the original Hebrew letters, they are even more nearly identical.

Each time a female is born, it is another divine creation. Males, on the other hand, bear far too much similarity to apes of lesser intelligence. It should be obvious.

The Genesis story shows God leading the animals and beasts to Adam for a potential mate, because Adam was just an animal. Adam almost chose a dog for a mate. But God, in Her infinite wisdom, realized Adam was not capable of living without divine help, so God gave a replica of Herself to watch over Adam.

This is clear from the Hebrew word, usually translated as 'help mate' It is 'Ezer,' a word which does mean help. But in the Bible, it only appears as a term for God Herself, or for Eve. David says, 'God is my Help (Ezer)' Eve, the Woman, was Adam's Help (Ezer). It was Adam who needed help, divine assistance. Eve was provided. She did not evolve. She had a separate divine creation.

Scientists generally are correct. Adam evolved. But religion is also correct, Eve was a Divine Creation. All the violence is the world is caused by men, who have barely evolved past their lower primate origins. Even with divine assistance from women, they often are unable to advance beyond their atavistic nature."

J'C: In light of Harold Bloom's theory that "J" was a woman, the irony in Genesis 2 is, with this post, beautifully explained.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Procreative vs recreational sex

Gender roles, family, God and Atheism - Beliefnet
Do you think there might be a biological advantage to having two parents that actually 'make love'? As opposed a family where the woman gets raped on a weekly basis? [...]I have six children. And we would have had more if I were up to it. [...] This happened because I sacrificed my life for my family and children.
Now does it bother me that they [atheists] much prefer recreational sex to procreational sex. [...]
J'C: "It would seem that parents that make love is almost a evolutionary necessity for a stable family and properly nurtured children. Which is why I object to the common religious edict that sex should not be making love it should be making children. The number of children resulting from that lovemaking should be a choice not chance, as you point out. You sacrificed your life for your family, which is a reasonable choice that I respect if your wife agreed with sacrificing her non-family contribution to society, I assume she did not work other than at home and family, and your sacrifice was the entire material support for the family.

Others may make a different choice, considering the overpopulation of the planet, that would be to combine recreational sex (I certainly hope you didn't deprive your wife of that when conception was not intended) with reproductive sex only for replacement levels. 2.3 kids, usually 2 to make up for those who choose more and both parents contribute to the economic and nurturing health of the family. I sacrificed my career several times to the needs of the family and my wife's career, and we shared the home duties equally with both doing more than our share so that the children would get the support and socialization that they needed. It worked out for the children which is most important."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Believe in yourself.

The Value of a God Belief - Beliefnet
Believe in yourself, then you die.
J'C: "I am OK with that. But it makes it all the more important that I not only have confidence in my capabilities to affect the society I choose to live in but also to do what I can to make a difference before I die. I have no hope of anything at all after death, whether it is Pie in the sky or or a lake of fire. Both are cons to sell belief."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Are all trustworthy?

The Value of a God Belief - Beliefnet

We teach our children to know better than 'believe Humans are trustworthy,' so I don't think it can mean that.

J'C: "Fortunately this primarily a religious teaching tied to Original Sin. As your friend (I hope) Jesus taught us give everybody two smites before you decide hesh is not trustworthy.

Many of us subscribe to the UU concept of radical respect for all people. That is assume all people are worthy of respect until they prove differently. Do not assume that just because of their religious beliefs or lack thereof, their skin tone, their eye shape or color of their dress that they are suspect."

This of course does not mean all are trustworthy. But tit for two tats seems to be the most effective game theory strategy in almost all scenarios. I suspect that past history with a believer group, Nazis come to mind, might justify a more conservative strategy, but lacking evidence of clear and present danger, tit for two tats seems wise.

Gay humor.

A bit of gay humor, not intended to offend any more than any other limerick,
but I use the last line frequently and people have asked for the limerick.

A gay man who lived in Khartoum
Took a lesbian up to his room.
They argued all night
Over who had the right
To do what, and with which, and to whom.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Is there value in God beliefs?

Is there any value in belief in God? - Beliefnet


"What is the value of a belief in God?

The most obvious values concerning a belief in God include conformity to social mores, strengthening of a sense of community, psychological benefits including the sense of personal power, and increased satisfaction from the internal perception of the expansion of knowledge.

What needs does the belief in God address?

Within Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs, Safety Needs are addressed directly and indirectly by belief in God. God is identified as the Protector and Guardian of his flock, the unstoppable foe of enemies, source for miracles of all kinds, etc. Love/Belonging/Social Needs are also addressed directly and indirectly by belief in God. God’s grouping of humans is characterized as a “Church;” membership is claimed to earn one God’s love; etc.

How does belief benefit/improve a person?

Belief can be a bridge out of the quagmire of low self-esteem. The belief that one has the benefit of an infallible Guide can instill the confidence to act rather than remain immobilized due to fear of failure or misfortune. Belief “socializes” a person and helps connect them to a support group outside their immediate family.

God is not required to objectively exist to provide benefit to the believers

The idea of God is more powerful than an actual existence of a being: the non-existent God is not required to conform to reality; supernatural qualities, reports of miracles and anecdotes of His supposed exploits are beyond the reach of falsification; His supposed revelations need only happen to His representatives to earn authority: He is not required to meet anyone’s expectations and is not required to conform to any moral code, not even His own."

J'C: This deserves to be rescued from the train wreck don't bother with the link. Please note the critical fact in the last paragraph. The existence of God supernatural, natural, or at all is irrelevant to the benefits of God to believers and non-believers alike. If God makes my neighbor a happier, better integrated, more productive and better socialized person, I am still looking for the downside, for my neighbor and for me.

I do not live in a vacuum, I am dependent on my neighbors at the very least to keep the street a safe and welcoming place for visitors and my children as they walk to school. They produce goods and services that I need, and if they were in that quagmire of low self esteem either because of low capabilities, or incorrectly evaluating those capabilities they would be unable to produce for society. They consume goods and services that support my society providing the critical mass of consumption that makes the goods and services I need affordable. Many of them provide social, artistic, and intellectual support for me through my contacts with them at work, in the stores, in leisure activities, and even in their church if I can wrangle an invitation as a respectful guest.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

God, Humans and Nothing

Inferring gods' character from nature - Beliefnet:

Regardless of whether you believe a personal being is responsible for it or if nature is, you are wholly dependent on someone or something else for your existence and the continuation of it, and for every thought and action that you take. Without something or someone else, you are nothing. We all are nothing on our own. Yes we can do things, we can make a difference by our wills, but ultimately we can take credit for nothing. If we reach out and touch people, we do it with the hands that we did not make.

J'C: "I have no problem with being interdependent with all in my chosen society present and past. My parents, from a long line of sapient beings, and an even longer line of successful living creatures, taught me to speak and think, and the moral precepts to take my place in that society. I affect my society and in turn am affected by it. But neither my society nor myself is nothing, and we can take credit for all the wonderful things that society past and present gives us. When we reach out and touch people it is an acknowledgment that we are humans and responsible for not only those we touch but those they touch and have touched."

And a God that stimulates the quote is worth less than nothing.

Art and Nature

Inferring gods' character from nature - Beliefnet:

A beautiful painting is worth just as much if it was painted from existing materials or if it was poofed into existence by magic.

J'C: "As much as I enjoy APOD and the wonders they publish daily to give me my spiritual fix or at least one of them, Van Gogh's Starry Night speaks volumes more than any of them. He shows me how to see the stars and the galaxies and the wonders of our universe as a human must. Maybe they are infinite, but we can capture them all in less than a square yard of canvas if, of course, we are a genius."

I think that APOD recognized this. As I remember Starry Night was one of their offerings. Twice!

Friday, December 4, 2009

To know where I stand, please go here.

To know where I stand, please go here. Beliefnet Community:
"Here is where I stand.

I live and love, that requires breathing,eating and pooping and sex.

I did not require a book to figure all that out.

Didn't need Jesus either, he was not available...usually isn't, he does not pay bills, holds no personal responsibility at all because he was out of the real picture a couple thousand years ago.

Why worry about what happens after death? Uh, you are dead. no more bills no worries, no pain, you are reduced to the simplest in the food chain. Every bug squished has its delicious Karmic return.

For Christians, that means do what you want done to you, now. Don't worry about death, that is inevitable, we all die. Looking forward to death is a bit????

Try taking responsibility while still breathing. Don't give it to god or Jesus or some other god.

Try living now and being.

Heaven and hell are human concepts,never proven

If one is actually looking up how to love in a book, they ain't lovin' anybody. Love happened before written language. Sex before then.

If going biblical anyway, the OT COMMANDS a man please his wife at LEAST once a week on the sabbath. Also commands against meat and dairy and a few extras,rules on food and clothing...

Please wife/wives, treat all equally. Anything less was

grounds for divorce. Or worse!

The NT teaches celibacy and female degradation and male bonding. LOL.

Kind of interesting. What comes around... Except the worse comes after death. That does not count, imo.

Do me a favor, take responsibility for own crap. Jesus nor God will pay for anyone's transgressions.

They do not show up for trial here and no one has lived to tell about what happens there... ever!

So if someone says 'You will find wonder in heaven' ask for proof. don't kill yourself trying because no one will ever know!


Get busy!"

J'C: Other than my usual exclusion of the Synoptics from the NT Dar speaks eloquently for me.

Thank you Dar.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Religion in Current Events.

Intelligence=atheism? - Discuss Atheism - Beliefnet Community
It is BECAUSE of religion that the teaching of science and in general the quality of the education given to the American population has lagged behind in recent generations. We are steadily becoming more stupid, more docile and more religious as a society.

"It is really hard to find the real horse pulling this cart. Are the dittoheads all religious? Is Rush really religious? Were Bush/Cheney/Rove religious? Were any of the above motivated by their religion or did they just cite it because it added to their power? Religion has been blamed for many atrocities in history, perhaps properly so in some cases, but 'unbiased' historians frequently find other blameworthy influences.

It is my considered opinion that the historical aversion of religion to secular knowledge has made religious people too uneducated to have any meaningful influence on events in the world. However, those smart and venial enough to count believers can certainly figure out ways to use them."

Determinism, Randomness, and the Mind

Determinism, Randomness, and Free Will
It seems to me that if brain-function is random, then its product, reason, cannot be relied upon at all.
J'C: "Random with sophisticated feedback can produce quite meaningful results. Think random error in gene duplication with the feedback of selection and one gets a meaningful result of a new successful species, or a meaningful result of a lethal mutation.

I think cause and effect have very little to do with mind/brain function. Essentially the sensory stimulus is random or at least so voluminous that the first cut by the mind can be thought of as eliminating data points that do not conform to an existing pattern in the nerve cells feeding data to the brain, in other words eliminating worthless random stimuli. Apparently the first cut in the retina is an edge. The first feedback loop is that an edge might be useful and the brain 'requests' data from around the edge. If the data around the edge form the capital 'I' the mind says 'Pay attention this is critical data!' Another feedback loop may say forget it it is just a bridge girder, and the mind moves on, and the cause bridge girder resembling an 'I' has no lasting effect.

The important functions of the brain/mind are these feedback loops that correlate fresh input with existing data to reinforce or weaken the data points. Trying to identify cause and effect is an endless chase through the feedback loops unless one reasonably shortstops the process as the mind does and says this stimulus reproducibly is associated with this response and is a cause and effect relationship."

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Brain: Fact or Faith - Same old same old

The Brain Processes Facts and Beliefs the Same Way | Newsweek BeliefWatch: Lisa Miller | Newsweek.com:
"Harris, Kaplan, et al. put 30 people in fMRI machines. Half of them were committed Christian believers, the kind of Christians who would immediately agree with the statement 'Jesus ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father.' Half were committed atheists, the kind who would agree with the statement 'The belief that Jesus ascended to heaven is clearly false.' Up on a screen before them, participants would read declarative statements. Some were statements of religious belief, some of religious disbelief. Some were statements about more ordinary facts. Participants had to push buttons—indicating true or false—as the researchers watched their brains light up. Belief in God, disbelief in God, and belief in simple empirically verifiable facts all lit up the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain that governs your sense of self. We are, in some sense, what we believe."

It ain't quite as simple as Newsweek would have you believe, but the disconnect between fundies and scientists seems to reside in the same area of the brain. A religious belief and a science fact lie in the same parts of the brain as self image. No wonder we can't talk to each other.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Blind, Pitiless Indifferent Universe.

The Gradual Illumination of the Mind: Scientific American: "In one of the most existentially penetrating statements ever made by a scientist, Richard Dawkins concluded that 'the universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.'"

Which in its blind indifference produced a species that could invent a God which shares that blind pitiless indifference. Why anyone would worship either is a mystery to me. We should celebrate the fact that we miraculously resulted from the ability to survive of countless ancestors, and can do our part to make sure that countless descendants, direct and collateral, live in a more loving and intelligently managed world than we do. We should not be blind, pitiless, and indifferent to our responsibilities to them. In other words we should not let that blind, pitiless, indifferent God manage their lives.

Too Big for a Fork?

As honored guests at a Chinese wedding, we were seated at the Bride's Mother's table along with the few other Caucasian friends of the groom. The table was set Shanghai style, plenty of forks and spoons, no knives, but to avoid embarrassing the Caucasians, no chopsticks. When the sectioned duck course came around I dutifully picked up a 2 in. cube on my fork "As the Chinese do" and tried to enjoy it. The taste was wonderful, but my discomfort in eating it was evident to the hostess, to the point that she suggested that I need not eat the duck if I didn't like it. I realized that the source of my discomfort was my absent mother, hovering over my shoulder saying "NEVER TAKE MORE ON YOUR FORK THAN YOU CAN EAT IN ONE BITE!" yes, she was shouting at me. I fully expected the slap on the hand to emphasize the message. I asked the hostess for chopsticks which I was skillful with and enjoyed the duck and the rest of the meal without offending my mother who never heard of chopsticks.

Where did the conceptual gaffe of eating something that was too big for a fork come from? Intellectually I knew that my actions were socially correct, but at the conceptual level, I was flat-ass-wrong, to the point of nausea. The conceptual truths of proper table manners ingrained from childhood were not to be denied by the simple intellectual truth of being in a different culture with different manners.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Life after death?

Life after death? - Beliefnet Community
Through his ignorance, man fears death; but the death he shrinks from is imaginary and absolutely unreal; it is only human imagination.
J'C: "I neither fear nor shrink from death. Birth and death are the frame for my life that provide the purpose and meaning for my living. Whether death is real or unreal makes no difference in my living. The total absence of any evidence other than empty promises of religious con men of any form of existence after death, would indicate to me that what is important in any event is living. I will devote all of my energy and resources to that living, confident that come what may after death the living will be the only meaningful part of existence. Now or later. If there is a later."

Existential Despair

Existential Despair - Discuss Atheism :
I've often wondered if this an outgrowth of the feelings of triviality and hopelessness that the assumption No God engenders. As my close friend put it, ... 'Have you ever stopped to think of it? We are all microscopic specs in a macrocosmic universe.'
J'C: "While your friend's observation might be a true statement, most of us microscopic specks find good reasons to continue living in the other microscopic specks of our own species and others that we might love and be loved and make a difference in the lives of those other microscopic specks. We are not going to change the shape of the universe, but we can change the lives of our friends and perhaps our society to make it a more loving and friendlier place for all. And while we are at it we can enjoy the spiritual discoveries of our friends and neighbors as they explore that macrocosmic universe."

Suicidal Religious Rejection

Existential Despair - Discuss Atheism - Beliefnet Community
I've often wondered if this an outgrowth of the feelings of triviality and hopelessness that the assumption No God engenders. As my close friend put it, shortly before he committed suicide, 'Have you ever stopped to think of it? We are all microscopic specs in a macrocosmic universe.'

J'C: I am truly sorry to hear about the suicide of your friend. Assuming for the moment that your friend was a considered atheist and not a failed theist, the feelings of triviality and hopelessness are rare and generally temporary in new atheists. Generally atheists find hope and meaning in the society of their friends, but occasionally that society is religious which rejects and casts out a fresh non-believer. This is common not only for atheism but other rejections of dogma that cause a bigoted rejection of the person. Denying a person the fellowship of herm church for doctrinal reasons is an all too common cause of suicide. See the Christianity and Homosexuality board for examples of near suicides for this reason.

It never ceases to amaze me that certain religions are so concerned with their dogma that they will sacrifice their young that reject that dogma. Shunning, excommunication, whatever they call it deprives a young person of the social connections that have made herm life meaningful for much of herm life, and suicide is an all too common reaction to that rejection. I wonder how many of the "unexplained" teen suicides are really explainable by religious rejection for one reason or another. Homosexuality and atheism being the most common causes. Don't expect the kid's church to apologize they would claim that they were just trying to help herm comply with herm faith. Gut-wrenching is way to weak a word.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Human Spirit

Life after death? - Religion and the Human Mind - Beliefnet Community


"Humans have spirit and don’t have a soul. I believe spirit is a mental faculty that is experienced though the results of its function. Spirit bridges the gap between reason and emotion, allowing the “aha moments” to surface. Spirit guides and helps employ our senses of empathy and benevolence.

The words 'spirit' and 'spiritual' refer to real aspects of human experience, namely the mental aspects of human life. 'Spiritual values' are those values that fulfill the needs of human consciousness [rather than the survival needs associated with those things such as food, water, warmth, etc that sustain the body.] For example, the determination to strive toward one’s goals is generated from human spirit.

An encounter with art that calls out our emotions and sense of life, but that does not primarily address any physical need, is a spiritual encounter.

Information that just 'pops' into a person's consciousness is identified as coming from the function of intuition, another of the mental faculties."

Thanks EI I wish I had said it.

What is a Soul

Life after death? - Religion and the Human Mind
What is your concept of the soul?
J'C: The soul is a myth created to sell religion and the god associated with it. It is based on convincing people their legacy is worthless, and that their only hope is that somehow things will be different after they die. Mostly this takes the form of god thinks you are worthless now, but after you die god will change herm mind and make you something worth while. A con as old as humanity. But the con men are good at their game and can con enough to make a living off the particular myth they are selling.

The horrible thing about this con is that it is a self fulfilling prophesy about self worth. The person who buys into this con is convinced that their only hope is to believe in whatever God the con man is selling and that the pie in the sky after they die will taste better than the worthless wafers dispensed by the con man.

Thank you. I will take my chances with the people I love and who love me, at least I can talk to them, leave a few scribbles on the internet, and trust that I will make enough difference in enough lives that I will be remembered with love and perhaps even a quote or two that helped. The pie in the sky doesn't exist, but even if it did, it wouldn't taste any different from the pie I am making in my life while it exists.

Life after death?

Life after death? - Religion and the Human Mind - Beliefnet Community
The life of the body is a power, a force. Where does it come from and where does it go when the body dies and this life leaves?
J'C: The life of the body comes from the survival characteristics of its ancestors back to that amoeba mentioned recently. The power and force come from the society of which it is a part and which provides the nurturing and training so that the person can have whatever influence they are capable of having in their society. For some that maybe only be their family and friends but that is a significant contribution. Others may have a wider influence for good or for evil, but all affect some and the legacy is secure again for good or for evil. The force is a part of the body and dies when the body does. Only the legacy lives in the others that were affected by the person while alive and the stories and myths they perpetuate about the person.

Biblical Morality

What are Darwinists afraid of? - Origins of Life - Beliefnet Community
What is the foundation (The Bible or the ToE and its offspring?) for USA morality, today, vs pre-1750 A.D.
J'C: Since ~400 CE Biblical morality can be summed up as believe or die. As you point out most of the colonies accepted this morality by causing the natives to die for not accepting Biblical morality or accepting slavery as an alternative. Around 1700 people became disgusted with Biblical morality and accepted a more enlightened morality of believe in a morality that works for everyone. This encouraged more respect for observation and theorizing about the natural world which resulted in the studies of Darwin among others and the rapid advance of our understanding of the natural world. The bankrupt believe or die Biblical morality was basically killed by the excesses of its practitioners. The underlying gloss of historically socially adaptive morality of some of the commandments and the Hebrew religious rules were accepted not because they were Biblical, but because they worked. Those that didn't were generally honored in the breech and society evolved to its current cosmopolitan and humanistic morality. Which is based on respect for all of all religious traditions, ethnic and coloration varieties. I much prefer it to the believe or die Biblical morality.

I just get tired of Bibliolators holding up Biblical morality as something that is even remotely moral. They seem to think that nobody can read the bible or history to find out what Biblical morality really is: Hate, kill, rape or enslave anyone who doesn't believe in the testosterone poisoned God of the OT and Paul. Not that the Qur'an is any better, but around these parts the Bible is dominant.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dog Ownership of People

Dave Coverly on the joys of dog ownership of people that is.

Or as Heinlein noted an alien visiting earth would find walking the dog as the executives most important activity as a slave to the dog. Stranger.

Sad commentary on Americans

Tom Toles On why American Health Care does not work.

It really irritates me every time I go to Kaiser and stand in line at the Pharmacy behind 5 obese people and maybe 1 other of normal weight. AKA why my Senior Advantage is so expensive.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thoughts on listening to the Brahms Requiem.

102.1 KDFC - Casual. Comfortable. Classical. - THE SACRED CONCERT: "Johannes Brahms: Ein deutsches Requiem “German Requiem”
Movements I-IV (44:28)
Gundula Janowitz, soprano
Tom Krause, baritone
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna State Opera Chorus
Bernhard Haitink, conductor
“Ein deutsches Requiem”
Philips 411 436-2"

If I were ever going to be tempted by Pascal's Wager it would be the God of Brahms. I don't know who to tithe to. The above recording is out of print. Haitink takes it slowly and reverently as I expect Brahms would have liked.

If the Handbriet is all we have on earth I am sure that Gott would like us to live it to the fullest in preparation for continuation in the Lieblich Wohnungen.

Brahms Universalism seems to me to make the life of the living more important to live well. I can't imagine the dwelling that would be prepared for the hate filled here on earth. I would certainly expect that it would be well marked, a huge round building with an enormous cross on the top, so that all who are living in the Lieblich parts could give it a wide berth.

It is a pleasant fantasy but not too likely. It is nice to know that it doesn't make any difference in living.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Atheistic Evolution - Discuss Atheism - Beliefnet Community

Atheistic Evolution
I'm curious how you all account for your own existense sans god.

Somewhere circa 3.5 billion years ago a hungry strand of RNA found that by hiding in a lipid membrane it could duplicate itself and split off another lipid membrane to hide the copy. It was better at doing so than any of the other replicators around and made a lot of copies of itself and survived this was my first ancestor. One of these copies had a mistake in copying and was even better at co opting lipids and survived even better this was a later ancestor. Later another ancestor found out that DNA was better at replicating without errors, and survived better than RNA predecessors. Much later another ancestor found a better way to survive and prosper. The key here is that there is an unbroken line of organisms that survived long enough to reproduce including my parents, that accounts for my own existence sans God. Improbable? Yes indeed. One might even call it a miracle. But it was a miracle with no God required."

The Fixed-Wing In America's Cup

The Fixed-Wing Is In: America's Cup Sailors Plan to Use Rigid Carbon-Fiber Airfoil on U.S. Entry: Scientific American: "The Fixed-Wing Is In:
The U.S. team for the America's Cup is replacing its boat's mast and cloth mainsail with a hard, fixed wing that is 80 percent larger than a Boeing 747 wing, not to mention difficult and dangerous to maneuver"

Gee, what ever happened to the fat kid hanging out on the trapeze? They still ought to make them power the hydraulics with coffee grinders. Stink boats in the America's cup. What is the world coming to.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Axioms for the Sapient.

Axioms for the Sapient.
have you enumerated your axioms? For I don't see how any theory of knowledge can be achieved with none.

Thank you, or damn you, Lavengro. I know this wasn't directed at me but must be responded to. Version 3.2 necessarily tentative follows:

1. I exist.
That is that portion of my brain that evaluates stimuli, integrates them, and relates them to the gestalt of previous stimuli exists. Cogito ergo sum.

1.a. Spirituality exists.
Spirituality is that portion of my brain that evaluates the importance of the various integrations of stimuli. It is necessarily internal.

2. Other exists.
Other consists of that which has the potential to present stimuli to sapient beings.

2.a. Other includes the material.
That which presents direct stimuli that can be measured. The material includes the stuff of my body and brain, and that of others (people.) Reality in the material world is conformance to measurements of self and others.

2.b. Other includes the conceptual.
Stimuli from the working of the other thinking beings alive and dead, usually expressed as stories, myth and theories. It contains the integrated gestalt of individuals or groups of thinking beings. Truth in the conceptual is that which resonates with the gestalt that is me. It is necessarily subjective.

2.c. Other includes the social.
The others which by chance or choice I must allow stimuli both ideological and material from and incorporate into my existence. Morality is the ideology that permits the smooth functioning of my social reality. Morality is necessarily reflexive.

3. Other exists independently of observation.
Other exhibits changes in lapses of observation.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Creationist Quiz

The Secret - Origins of Life

EarthScientist: Let's play match the creationist, draw a line from the YEC creationist to their real name!

Jan Peczkis - - - - - - 57/trilobyte/YEC

Stuart Nevins - - - - - John Woodmorappe

Karl Crawford - - - - - Steve 'not stone cold' Austin"

Blü: EarthScientist

Karl and faith will be able to solve two of your three puzzles but they'll never work out the third one.


SIS: ? But if you know two of the three doesn't the third Q have only one remaining answer?

Oh, I see now, even if it is totally obvious to everyone else that only one answer remains, creationists still won't get it.

That's a profound insight, Blu. Quite profound.

Monday, October 26, 2009

It is not about life after death. It is about the funeral.

Does proselytizing commodify human beings? - Discuss Atheism - Beliefnet Community:
It’s not about your death. It’s about the lives of your grandchildren and their grandchildren.

And much more important the lives of those that showed up at the funeral or memorial service (or should have.) For most people only the children and grandchildren have any real interaction with the live parent. After that the genetic and memetic legacy is important in the progeny, but the folks at the funeral carry most of the social and loving legacy of the deceased. This is a fact for all, religious or not. Christians may get pie in the sky after they die, and Muslims their attendants, but that is myth. Those at the funeral are truth, whether they are there or not."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Two Careers, two children '70s

Ontological Inferiority of Women in Paul and the OT - Discuss Atheism - Beliefnet Community:
Men want to take a more active role in caring for their children, but two out of five admit they do not spend enough time with their sons or daughters.

As an early adopter of the concept of a two high level career household with children, I found many social norms to be totally incompatible with the concept, in two cases costing me my job and career prospects due to role issues for males and females. I chose to take the hit as I had the social (male ease of job movement) and educational resources, to be able to. The fact that my wife was not paid a head of household salary in spite of having a head of household job made the choice harder, but we both knew what we were up against in both large and small social issues. Just being the only adult male in a preschool area of a park was frequently an interesting experience. I would occasionally have to call my kids to justify my presence there, a few times to cops. Not complaining, mind you, we both chose the road with clear knowledge of the ruts and potholes. And believe me, the gender ruts were obvious and unavoidable.

It started when we were admitted to a big name U for Grad school, she in medicine me for an MBA. We went to financial aid and said "We are broke, how do we do this?" The aid guy said its easy she gets a job and puts you through the MBA then you get the big bucks from the MBA and put her through med school. We said we are both starting in the fall, what part of that don't you understand? To their credit they found a way, a grant for her tuition and a crippling loan for tuition and expenses for me. Abject poverty is good for the soul and for concentrating on studies, a movie was off the budget even if we smuggled in our own popcorn.

Tenure track medical education was no walk in the park in those days or now for women, which is why I had to use the MBA connections many times involuntarily. Like the time the boss said your wife must be at this party for the sake of your career. Guess what? He was right. She wasn't there (professional obligations) and I had to find another opportunity. I suppose if the promotion had been more important to me I could have arranged it, but I was pissed. It wouldn't have worked anyway as the company culture was wife as help mate in company politics.
The idea of social structures without a sexual division of labour is an interesting one...

It can be done. It just takes a major commitment on both sides. Mom was in her lab 'till lunch time in prep for a planned 2:00 induction for our second. In return I had to handle the middle of the night feeding. That is get up, get the kid, hang him on the teat, wait till he pooped, change the diaper and put him back in the crib.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Determinism, Randomness, and Free Will --Randomness

Determinism, Randomness, and Free Will - Discuss Atheism - Beliefnet Community: "I am quite comfortable with the randomness of living. Unlike some of the hard theists here, I think causality is the exception rather than the rule. If God is watching over anybody Hesh is doing a lousy job. In my view free will is expressed by how we react to the random events that color our lives including that huge one of our inevitable death. Our lives began with the random meeting of gametes, and random events like finding and losing friends, and lovers define how we choose to live. I live my life intentionally, in that I choose which random events I wish to react to and how I do so. Free will is not even an issue, there is no compulsion to do anything I choose not to do. Although things may happen that I must choose to react to. But there is always a choice. When the green car came flying over the center barrier into my lane, I could choose to do nothing and experience the fun of a high speed head on, or I could choose to steer as close to the barrier as I could. One might say the choice was forced, but it was still a choice. Making good choices is the essence of living in a random world."

Determinism, Randomness, and Free Will ---Solipcism

Determinism, Randomness, and Free Will - Discuss Atheism - Beliefnet Community

I need the axiom to get rid of solipsism &c.

What is wrong with solipsism? It needs to be recognized, understood and controlled, but even your axioms are fundamentally solipsistic. They are what you believe and what make you comfortable with your relationship with the material world. Pretending otherwise may cater to your materialism, but does not get rid of the solipsism.

I have no problem with solipsism. As a wonderful quote from Heinlein notes, 'Sometimes she goes away, but I am always here.' That is how I know the relationship of self with the rest of the world. I do not doubt the reality of the rest of the world, even when it 'goes away' but I do know the difference between self and other."

Determinism, Randomness, and Free Will

Determinism, Randomness, and Free Will - Discuss Atheism - Beliefnet Community:
Forgetting 'random' for the time being -- if the brain's random we might as well pack up and go home --

What everyone is forgetting is that random is not an either/or condition. In fact rationality might be defined as reasonable responses to random events that occur both internally to the brain and externally as in spilled cumin in the curry. (Should I eat it or spit it out?) The brain has sophisticated feedback that evaluates odd inputs either internal or external to see if it is important to current events in the mind. That random linear flash of reflected sunlight might be nothing. In the vicinity of a passing car the brain will ignore it. But in a crowd of people the brain might decide to direct the full attention of the mind to look for danger associated with such linear flashes. Many millions of years of separating out dangerous random signals from similar random signals that are normal patterns in the environment make dealing with the randomness of the environment a critical survival trait.

The brain's internal random juxtapositions of thought patterns is the essence of human creativity and free will. A vaguely remembered dream of a snake biting its tail juxtaposed to a vexing structural chemical problem may be responsible for modern organic chemistry. One can play the determinism game all night long and say August Kekulé had the dream because of a logical train of subconscious thought on his problem, but the waking correlation of the dream to the problem at hand seems to be deterministically improbable to the point of ridiculousness. The mind might be envisioned as a laser cavity of random thought processes that reinforce to produce meaningful waves or flow past each other without hooking up at that time. Sooner or later less important thought processes are relegated to the memory for future use as needed, (don't ask me how the mind knows they are needed, or how it retrieves them from the memory, I am not that smart.) But I do know that the mind is extremely versatile in processing that endless stream of data.

Determinism, Randomness, and Free Will -- Peek-a-boo

Determinism, Randomness, and Free Will - Discuss Atheism - Beliefnet Community:
As I said, the only non-arbitrary starting point for knowledge to begin, which is implicit in all knowledge, is the distinction between something which is observed and ourselves as observers of it. Before we can know anything about anything, we must first observe something which we subsequently attempt to know (ie determine the nature of).

A recent AI article in Scientific American noted that peek-a-boo is the AI holy grail. I have been thinking about that a lot recently, not only because peek-a-boo is fun to play with kids, but because an infant in the cradle can play peek-a-boo with a relative stranger and still tell the difference between self and other no matter which of them is doing the hiding. I would agree that the distinction between the observed and ourselves as observers and interpreters of what is observed is fundamental.

I think Blü is entitled to his axioms:
There is a world external to the self. The senses are capable of perceiving this world. Reason is a valid tool.
They describe the reality that he observes, just as the theist is entitled to the axiom that all observations are manifestations of the will of God, and Descartes is entitled to his view that observations are manifestations of his will. I agree that Blü's axioms are probably the best description of our interactions with what we observe, but he has no greater claim to TRUTH than the bible thumpers.

I have no problem with a separate material external reality that we can discover and manipulate with science and technology. I also have no problem with a separate internal reality in other people by which they view the world. If it includes a God that watches over them and will take care of them if they pray hard enough
how hard, hard enough to make water flow uphill. Lazarus Long
that is as much their privilege as it is Blü's and mine to depend on materialistic science and technology. I find the God that many pray to is worthless, but it is still their free choice to do so. Sometimes I would like to warn them that God and Herm followers are subject to evolution just like all the other animals out there, but it would do no good, and probably annoy them in the process.

Friday, October 9, 2009

How are people created?

Let's play a science game - Origins of Life - Beliefnet Community:
If 'Yes' did you cause yourself to exist?
If 'No' then something else was by NECESSITY responsible for your existence

I did not cause myself to exist I exist because of the random meeting of gametes, which were generated by meiosis a random division of germ cells which creates a random mix of the characteristics of my parents (and their ancestors) to create maximum diversity in my genetic makeup.

I was fortunate (that is the product of a series of favorable random events) to inherit an intelligent reasoning ability to evaluate my society and fit myself into the reasoning and intelligent portion of it. I was also fortunate to have a deficiency in the ability to kowtow to arrogant preachers and apologists who think they have all the answers to all questions. In fact it is more than a deficiency it is an active rejection of all such individuals and their BS."

Speed Dating

Head Lines: Men Are Choosy, Too: Scientific American: "Ladies must be picky because they invest more in their offspring, according to the oft-repeated evolutionary theory. But when researchers made the simple switch of having women do the table hopping while men stayed seated, the two sexes suddenly became equally choosy,"

So much for evolutionary explanations for a dumb experiment.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Just Don't Do It.

Obviously prior to contraceptives and STD preventative measures being commonly available this edict made considerable sense. With the ubiquitous availability if not use of these measures it would seem that the edict makes less sense than it used to. After all, the pair bonding efficacy of sex is a useful feature in a desire to form a pair bond against the vicissitudes of the big bad world out there. If that is the only intent of the pair bond, that is it does not include a desire or plan for parenting, I see no reason not to proceed. However when the pair bonding is for the eventual purpose of conception I have reconsidered the thought of contraceptive sex as a recreational or pair bonding activity.

Having been around the horn (pun intended) several times in several relationships with and without the intent for progeny, the decision to try for a child by a loving couple inevitably changes a relationship by changing the focus from each other as people and partners to the planned family with all the extra responsibilities and commitment that a family entails. With all of the other pair bonding activities available to a couple that are mutually gratifying and intimate there seems to be a case to be made for reserving that ultimate bonding act intended by nature for the welfare of the continuation of the species for the time when the couple is ready, willing and able to do so. Certainly "taking off the rubber" changes things, but in my opinion and experience not really enough.

Maybe all those religions know what they are talking about when they say "Just Don't Do It." Particularly for couples that commit early, and must defer family for educational or financial considerations, it would seem that the other pair bonding activities should be used to keep the pair bond intact and save the lets make a baby for the icing on the (wedding) cake, even if the wedding is off in the future. First gestations are notoriously short, but should never be an accident. If the couple has thought about it, talked about it, and decide parenting it right for them, the power of the first time "as one" seems to me to be worth the wait.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Me, Myself, and I?

Me, Myself, and I? :
So for both atheists and theists out there, is there an overarching definition of personal identity, or is the answer based on who you ask?
Furthermore, how do you define yourself in such a way if that is taken away, one cannot call themselves same person that they were when they had that?

"The differentiation between the mind and the sensory workings of the brain is what separates the concept of self from everything else, including the functioning of one's own body and brain. Whether this self concept is internal, that is supported by the activity of the brain, or imposed from some external source (God) will depend on who you ask.

Many who use Genesis as a source will aver that what God 'breathed' into Adam was the sense of self with the ability to reason about what one experienced, and not incidentally, the ability to separate a stimulus, that is hunger from the response, that is to decide what to eat. This ability to separate a stimulus from the appropriate response is what a theist will call a soul, and consider it to be separate from the body and ego and originating outside of either.

I find this a natural function of a brain of sufficient complexity. Right now I am training a puppy, and one of the things I am training him on is the appropriate responses to certain stimuli. And teaching him the concept of his space. This requires that I assume he has some ability to separate his actions from the stimulus that might lead him to leave his space. He has learned that his space is different from the space of others in his life. When someone leaves his rooms he must not follow as a dog normally would, he must stop at the edge of the rug which defines his space, and not pass the boundary.

My sense of self is much more complex of course, but includes the concept of my space, those things I can affect and respond to, and my ability to determine reliably and quickly appropriate responses to stimuli that affect my space. This includes of course other people who contact my space, and morality consists of how I respond to stimuli that they present. If someone smites me on the right cheek, I need to decide whether the natural response of a swift kick to the crotch is appropriate or not. But even the swift kick must be a reasoned response if I am to be comfortable with the self concept that separates me from all the others around me. The time a response is reactive to a stimulus is where I lose the sense of self and self control and become just another animal in the jungle."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Jeff Danziger on Health Care Reform

Fairy Godmothers

Facebook | Home: "Meg Barnhouse from Nina and Dan: 'If I could I'd find a fairy godmother with a magical wand and combat boots so that she could grant your wishes and kick the crap outta anything that tried to get in the way of your happiness.' Thanks!"

One of the many reasons Meg Barnhouse is on my Google Alert list.

Mary Travers

From an email to members from Rosanne Zoccoli President of NYCS.

She has said everything I have been trying to get posted so much more eloquently than I ever could.

Dear members,

No doubt by now many of you have heard the sad news that longtime folk legend and friend of NYCS, Mary Travers, has passed away following a valiant battle with leukemia.

Along with fellow performers Peter Yarrow and Noel (Paul) Stookey, Mary was part of an enormously successful collaboration with NYCS. For 21 years, Peter Paul and Mary performed their pioneering brand of folk music with the NYCS on the stages of Carnegie and Avery Fisher Hall, on Broadway and on television. Throughout our collaboration with the trio, they had always donated their services free of charge to the NYCS - a gift for which we will forever be grateful. We will forever be thankful for the gift of music they gave to us and our audiences.

In all of these concerts, Mary was a central figure. She sang, smiled, and loved being a part of NYCS. Those of us who have been in NYCS for many years also remember fondly how Mary would bring home-made chopped liver to rehearsal ---a gift for all to enjoy.

Thank you very much.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mary Travers, Singer of Protest Anthems, Dies at 72 - Obituary (Obit) - NYTimes.com

A giant who made the world a better place is a beloved memory now. The privilege of rehearsing with and performing with PP& especially Mary was a highlight of my many years with the New York Choral Society.

Mary Travers, Singer of Protest Anthems, Dies at 72 - Obituary (Obit) - NYTimes.com: "Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary Dies at 72

Published: September 16, 2009

Mary Travers, whose ringing, earnest vocals with the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary made songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “If I Had a Hammer” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” enduring anthems of the 1960s protest movement, died on Wednesday at Danbury Hospital in Connecticut. She was 72 and lived in Redding, Conn.
Ms. Travers brought a powerful voice and an unfeigned urgency to music that resonated with mainstream listeners. With her straight blond hair and willowy figure and two bearded guitar players by her side, she looked exactly like what she was, a Greenwich Villager directly from the clubs and the coffeehouses that nourished the folk-music revival.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Moral Evolution

The evolution of morality : "The 2000 year old text is really two different and incompatible texts. In one a radical humanist preacher tried to update a morality suitable for desert marauders into one more suitable for a more cosmopolitan diverse society. He shifted moral responsibility from God and the priesthood to individuals. The other recaptured God centered morality ironically elevating the radical humanist to God.

I find many Christians are finding the humanistic preacher more applicable to a modern diverse society, and are rejecting the God Centered morality of the OT and non-synoptic NT. I can't count the number of times I hear the Two Great Commandments of Jesus as the essence of Christian morality. Fundies and Bibliolators may disagree, but for me and for Jefferson, the morality of the Synoptics is a reasonable basis for a cosmopolitan morality."

What is "Real"?

What is "real?" : "

What do you mean by 'real'?

"Since everybody else is playing dodge-ball with this issue, let me try. Real for the human mind or brain if you prefer, is a conception of an object external to the mind that can be described with sufficient precision to be identifiable to others as a similar conception in their mind of sufficient power and experience. Hence, rocks, rainbows, even virtual particles are real. A mythical entity such as Santa Claus can be considered to be real, as the conception is of an object that can be described and understood by others, even though certain properties may be differently conceived by different minds and the referent of the myth is fictional.

Please note that even the magical aspects of Santa Claus, the flying reindeer, the self replenishing present supply, can be considered real at the unsophisticated child level although the sophistication is not age related. An adult given no opportunity to understand the differences among magical, mythical, and material reality may not be able to conceive the difference.

Maturity of mind allows us to separate reality into categories like magical, mythical, material, and conceptual among others depending on the sophistication of the mind involved. The big bang, or inflation, is a conceptual reality for those able to deal with the concept of best explanation of reality to date but not necessarily a material reality. "

So for me, reality's (first) what's out there and (second) the reasoned inclusion of oneself in the resulting picture.

Which eliminates all of the interesting conceptual, fictional and mythical things that inform and amuse the mind, which of course does not exist in your material world. I find your material world orderly, understandable, and boring. I much prefer the messy, incomprehensible, wonder-filled world of the mind, where truth is not found by observation but by understanding.

You can borrow my Vintage Playboy collection if you get too bored.

Typical materialist. Just look at the pictures and you don't have to deal with the interesting conceptual, fictional and mythical complexities of a real woman.

I will go with the materialists that consciousness or mind is supported by neural activity of the brain. Where I differ from them is that consciousness is not dependent on input from the sensual processing areas of the brain, but uses selected data from those areas and creates a relationship between itself and the rest of the world as sensed, and in addition provides self referential feedback on how to manage that relationship.

Pain input from the senses, causes the reflex action to minimize the pain, but also triggers the consciousness to analyze the source of the pain, and the consciousness will analyze the cause of the pain and figure out ways to avoid it in the future, or perhaps decide that it is a necessary accessory to some other project the consciousness has in its in-box. The easiest way to avoid the pain of a hot stove is to stay away from hot stoves. But the consciousness says I'm hungry and some scrambled eggs would be good right now, and that means go near that dreadful hot stove. Be careful Y'all.

As noted I have no problem with the mind being supported by neural activity of the brain, but I would bet long odds against sombody with a fMRI being able to say "Here lies the mind"

Labels, Prayers and Wishes.

Antitheism? - Discuss Atheism - Beliefnet Community:
"If wishes were prayers and all worth a penny we would all be rich. People cling to labels, and prayers and wishes because they cannot or will not deal with the reality of a changing world where wishes, prayers and labels are holdovers from a time where ones local social group membership was all important, and ignorance was rampant. Today we can choose our social group(s) ignorance is dispelled with a click on Google, and all who chose can find out anything they want on the net.

Those clinging to labels are desperately refusing to adapt to the modern human ecology. This is known as evolution in action. (Thanks Niven and Pournelle, if you haven't read Oath of Fealty it is worth the price.)"

Material or immaterial mind?

The mythical "non-fundamentalist atheist":

Isn't the mind and brain the same thing?

I would think that even a strict materialist would say no. Certainly an intricate series of neural firings supports what we think of as the mind, but the intricate feedback loop between the working of the mind and the neural actions which support and are affected by the working of the mind strongly suggest a separate conceptual entity. It certainly develops with the brain and ceases to exist when the brain ceases to function, no dualism here, but I find the mind to be a separate entity.

To an idealist, no - the brain (and all other matter) is an 'objectification' of mind which is non- material.

To a realist ****waves hand and says "Teacher call on me!"**** both the material and the immaterial exist in reality. A rainbow exists only in the mind, damn the pedants who draw ray diagrams to show it is merely (sic) an optical phenomenon. The rock I stubbed my toe on was real and material, the pain was real and immaterial. I didn't imagine the pain.

No, the pain was not immaterial.

Yeah, it was just the firing of neurons telling the mind "Hey dipshit, you just fuckedup. Don't do it again.

Now, was the mind's response to that firing of neurons material?

The Mind, making sense of chaos.

The mythical "non-fundamentalist atheist" - Discuss Atheism - Beliefnet Community: "The conscious mind evolved or emerged if you wish, to make sense of the chaotic material input presented to the brain by the senses. To take a simple example, at a large cocktail party with many conversations going on with perhaps music and other random noises are presented to the brain by the auditory nerve complex. The mind needs to separate out the important noises, like the conversation one is engaged in. It can even sort out ones name mentioned in a conversation across the room. Visual stimuli are even more chaotic. Reality is much too messy to deal with in its unfiltered existence. Hence the mind to make sense of the data overload."

Tax, borrow or inflate.

Theism - anti-democratic? :

I think that democracy is terrible at self-correction, since democratic governments tend to increase taxes, borrow, or inflate the money supply 'unsustainably', and it is very difficult to reverse this process.

"As my Econ Prof said, so what? Governments have many ways to pay for the pork and wars and the pork and wars generate income so it all comes out even in the end. By the way this is true for all government types, democracy has no patent on tax, borrow or inflate."

Sexual morality

Another Question for Theists :
"Every atheist I know has extremely well developed and usually fairly strict moral standards with regard to sex. Without trying to speak for all atheists, I only know a few well enough to discuss sexual morality, the common thread seems to be radical respect for the feelings and integrity of the partner, and an absolute prohibition of non-consensual sex. Most heterosexual atheists consider sex with the intent to create children to be a commitment to the family to remain together at least until the children are old enough to understand any separation.

Note the differences with Christian morality. Serial monogamy is fine, screw any children, sometimes literally, as is diddling on the side with either sex, as long as man and wife show up in church occasionally. Non-consensual sex is fine if the couple is married in Church and indeed is expected to produce an unending stream of new Christians. Disgusting."

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Trip home

1800 miles of wonderful driving in three days including Hells Canyon, Mt Lassen and the Feather River Canyon. A brown bear cub was posed for a photo op on the Hells Canyon road, but dummy had the camera in the glove box, and by the time it was ready the bear was headed toward the lake, to fish, maybe swim. I wasn't into photos, dammed lakes don't float my boat, even though it floats many others. The trip to Susanville was beautifully twisty with empty roads to enjoy it. Lassen was a worth while side trip on the way to the Feather River Canyon road. From there home, and I was ready. If wishes came true I would have been transported from Oroville home, but alas I had to drive. I had done it enough that autopilot with good music on the CD made it endurable.

Horse camping with Family.

Went with Kevin, Beth, Alex, Gabriel and friends to Troy, OR which is basically a permanent tent camp for hunters and horse-people for the labor day weekend. I spent most of my time with the Grand-kids, while the ones with calluses on their butts toured the surrounding area on horseback. Fair trade is no robbery I enjoyed the time with the kids including a beautiful trip to Joseph's OR, a delightful tourist trap. Campfires morning and night that I didn't have to build. I am still looking for the downside of the weekend.

Crater Lake

No pix, you have to be there. The scale into the crater and out to the surrounding land is mind boggling. A life long dream fulfilled. Worth every mile of the exhilarating drive.

Avenue of the Giants

The ultimate blue road. The Pix above is one of thousands of possible shots. I would love to go back and walk the Avenue of the Giants so I could take them all. But it was a long day and a few hours was all I could afford. I took them all. Very late to the motel as it was.

Point Reyes

Glad I went, but I am not much of a beach person, so I probably won't go again. They claim 417 miles of trails, but other than one spectacular stand of windblown cypress at the lighthouse, I am not sure how I would tell one mile from the next. I can appreciate the attraction for people into the bucolic, great inns and B&Bs, wildlife and tame life, but other than the T-Shirt not much for me. Made for a short day, not bad for the first day.

4000 miles of pure joy.

Well actually 3900 I had to go through Sacramento and Walnut Creek to get home.

But a BMW with free miles to the end of the lease, essentially empty roads with very few straight sections, what is not to like about that. I hated to see even the long days end.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Charles Fiterman on facing death.

Beliefnet Discussions - Beliefnet.com: "I have bladder cancer and was given 6 to 18 months. I think I'm facing it fairly well. I ask daily what am I doing with my time that justifies the pain and expense and inconvenience to others of going on. When the answer becomes bad enough I will do the right thing." Written on 2/25/2005.

Charles died June 19, 2005 at The Palliative Care Center & Hospice of the North Shore, 2821 Central St., Evanston, IL 60201.

As a committed Libertarian, I am sure Charles would not support the public option, but if it had to be he would certainly argue for hospice care as a part of it. Hospice care is not a death panel, it is a death option. It should be a basic right for all people.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Petitionary Prayers

Prayer and Magic - Science & Religion - Beliefnet Community:
common sense alone says that most people wouldn't go to the trouble of asking if they didn't think it would work.

"Arguments based on common sense are generally false. Sense is not common and when people are using what sense they have about things that they don't understand the chances are that their sense is misleading them.

In my experience petitionary prayers that are a part of a liturgy or a religious ritual are not expected to be answered. The rituals and liturgies have a powerful unifying value for those who choose to believe. Whether this unity is with God or with their religious fellowship is really unimportant. But the petitionary prayers are integral to the ritual and liturgy not because of expectation of fulfillment but as a promise that God or the religious fellowship is listening and paying attention. Prayer circles have the same function. It is not that God will respond if a lot of people care, it is the fact that a lot of people care that is important.

I have spent thousands of hours studying and singing liturgical works not because I believe that any of the prayers contained therein will be answered, obviously since I do not believe in the referent God, but I learn much about how people respond to things like death and tragedy that they cannot understand. The prayer for peace Dona Nobis Pacem that ends the mass is at least ironic as Beethoven reminds us in the Missa Solemnis with the martial interlude. Do people really believe that God will give us peace in our time or in our lives? If not why have they been praying for just that every Sunday since the Nicene Creed was adopted? What does common sense have to say about that? "

Friday, August 28, 2009

Yosemite rockfall forces Ahwahnee evacuation | San Francisco Examiner

Yosemite rockfall forces Ahwahnee evacuation | San Francisco Examiner: "Park spokesman Scott Gediman said a series of falling rocks, some as large as microwave ovens, tumbled at least 100 feet from the base of the cliff and into the valet parking lot, where several cars were damaged. No injuries were reported."

As one who wondered about that when I had the valet park my car at the Ahwahnee, all I can say is Duh! They had to move boulders bigger than microwaves to make the parking lot in the first place. Surprise, surprise, there are more of them up there.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Atheist Prayers

The supernatural??? - Science & Religion - Beliefnet Community:
yet as we know, knowledge doesn't increase by becoming more and more vague, and ending up with a heap of improbable possibilities to pick and choose from for the sake of personal meaning.

"Do you worship knowledge, or the increase of it? Does knowledge provide personal meaning for your life? Does the heap of improbable possibilities surrounding the origin of the universe or the development of humanity and other existing species help you pick and choose for the sake of personal meaning?

I have spent a lifetime of hard work creating a coherent philosophy to provide personal meaning and moral guidance for my self and by extension those I share it with. For many good reasons some people choose a prepackaged version of both. I see no good reason to argue with them about it. I don't particularly like dark chocolate. Is my preference for caramel worth arguing about? If God answers questions others don't want to deal with why not say 'God bless you?' It doesn't hurt a bit. It is not even an admission that God exists. Ever since a very good Catholic friend of mine in a time of devastating trouble asked me to pray for him with the admonition that God even listens to atheists, I have prayed for theists when requested. I even pray for some without being asked when I think they could use a prayer. It costs me exactly nothing. I am thinking of them anyway and of ways I might help. The prayer was not in lieu of more realistic help, but if they felt better because of it, why would I deny them the comfort of a familiar placebo.

If God tells them to impose their beliefs on others that is a totally different matter. They will find I am a rather formidable opponent, with no scruples about destroying their beliefs if possible. Due to my study of religions I am well equipped to do so. The destruction of a pernicious belief is beneficial to society, and in accord with my personal meaning in life."

Aller Menschen werden Brüder

Heroes - Religion and the Human Mind - Beliefnet Community:

I'm interested to see you describe your heroes in terms of teaching you how to wrestle with the angel.

"Not so much how to wrestle with the angel, but how to deal with the victory. The Nicene God provides believers with a way to deal with a life in which lots of bad things happen and death is inevitable. Kill the God and you need to deal with a life in which lots of bad things happen and death is inevitable. Trying to do it alone is to deal with Neitzscheian nihilism or the existential angst of Sartre. In his Freude, Freude, Aller Menschen werden Brüder Beethoven gives his triumphant answer. Joy! Joy! All humans are siblings.

We can look to our fellow humans for all the answers to meaning and purpose, and how to deal with the bad things in life and its finite duration, with courage, optimism and joy. We don't need God with Herm pie in the sky after we die. We don't need God to make us feel good that there is something out there that cares if bad things happen. Or even to thank when good things happen. Aller Menschen werden Brüder and they care when I make their lives better. They care when I hurt. I can thank them for their help and support. And when my contribution ends if I have done well, they will remember me with pleasure and joy."

Collecting - A Concours of Misfits (Hold the Élégance) - NYTimes.com

Collecting - A Concours of Misfits (Hold the Élégance) - NYTimes.com: "Standing proudly beside his sparkling 1971 Ford Pinto, which is festooned with thousands of tiny square mirrors to create a disco-ball effect, he added: “No matter what, it will always be a Pinto.”

He said that as if it were a good thing."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Designed Universe?

The supernatural??? - Science & Religion:
Show your evidence, not your belief.

"There are many things that might indicate a creator. Just the asymmetry of the matter anti-matter in the universe, for example is explained just as well by God sorting it out as by the scientific theories of the beginning of matter. There are many constants that have been defined that keep the universe working the way it does. It can certainly be argued that the universe is as it is because it conforms to those constants. But it cannot be disproven that God designed those constants because Hesh likes to watch the gravitational dancing of the galaxies. I know I do. I waste much of my time on my APOD bookmarks of colliding galaxies. Frankly I cannot conceive of anything or even any God that could do such things, so I favor natural explanations myself. But ask me to prove that God didn't put those APOD photos up for my enjoyment, other than a weak 'I am not that important,' I couldn't prove God didn't do it. With very little effort I could prove that a specific God e.g. any of the primitive Mesopotamian Gods didn't do it. It is easy to prove they couldn't be that smart. But some Deist Creator? I wouldn't even try."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Personal Evidence

Antitheism? - Discuss Atheism:
But faith, as such, is blind - not reasonably justified by evidence...
I don't think that is true. Whilst there may be debate about the 'reasonably' bit of 'reasonably justified,' my faith (and I can only speak for my own) is not without evidence.
I fear you are misled by Richard Dawkins and his ilk. Faith, says Dawkins in The Selfish Gene, 'means blind trust, in the absence of evidence, even in the teeth of evidence.' He is mistaken.
Actually Lavengro, I thought this independently of Dawkins, but how is he mistaken? I take it you agree that it is not reasonable to believe in things independently of evidence, and that a belief can only be rationally justified by sufficient evidence. How then is your faith rationally justified ?
Dawkins is mistaken by the common fundie mistake of assuming some=all. He compounds that by the common atheist mistake of refusing to consider personal evidence. If I am convinced I have had a (Kantian) transcendental experience, and have examined that experience dispassionately as the scientist I am and found evidence that it was indeed transcendent, there is no possibility of reproducing that evidence for another. It happened to me. It was based on the integration of all of the mental and psychological factors that make up my mind which cannot be imposed on another. But if you trust my judgment as a scientist why can you not trust my evaluation of my experience as transcendent. "

Changing Destiny.

Pessimism v. Optimism - Discuss Atheism:

So your optimism is based on how other people act that are in your local world. Is that a fair statement? So say you were ... would you be optimistic there,
"The fact is that we choose our local world, at least by the time we grow up. Our choice will be heavily influenced by the world we grew up in. So say you were a fundie and lived in a Southern small town away from a cosmopolitan area. Would I be optimistic that you could learn to think for yourself about important areas of your life? A few years ago I probably would say no. But these days with mandatory email as a window to the world, it is all too easy to sneak a peek on the internet and be corrupted. You might have to worry about your parents as the common ad here suggests, but if you are really pessimistic about being anything about being a couch potato spending free time from that in church there is a way out. Don't get me wrong, it won't be easy, your determination to change your destiny must be strong, but these days it will be possible."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Heroes - Religion and the Human Mind

Heroes - Religion and the Human Mind - Beliefnet Community:

Who are your heroes? What makes them heroes to you?

To stay with the theme of the board, my lifelong hero has to be Beethoven. By studying his Masses, and indeed all of his music I learned what an atheist can learn from God. Indeed his war with God, which in my opinion he won particularly in the Ninth Symphony taught me more about being human than anyone else. But in my mind the Missa Solemnis is the definitive comment on the relationship to man and God, God being defined as the Nicene God of the Anglican, Catholic, Eastern and Orthodox liturgy. Mahler followed in his footsteps and turned the path to humanism into a highway. But Mahler was not at war with God, he took Beethoven’s victory as a given and built on it, as did many others, too numerous to mention as heroes. Bach might be included in the pantheon, but it wasn’t until I had thoroughly studied his music and Masses that I realized that he too was on the humanist path, but so constrained by his employer, the Church, that he couldn’t be obvious about it. But it is no accident that he introduced the tritone (The devil’s interval) into music even, God forbid on the pain of death, to church music. Although in my view the tritone is an intensely human interval with its eternal questioning and questing.)

In literature, Steinbeck stands tallest in the God wrestling business. If there is a humanist bible East of Eden (1952) has to be near the top of the list. The interpretation of the verb timshel from Cain’s charge as “Thou mayest triumph over sin” is brilliant. Not you will. Not you can. Not you must. But you may choose to triumph over sin is profoundly humanist and taught me how to deal with the serious mistakes I made that I couldn’t nail to the cross like my religious friends. Most of the Science Fiction/fantasy authors following Asimov and Heinlein wrote some great humanist novels, with not so incidentally some of the best humanist moral discussions to be found anywhere, most are on my reread list when I need some moral support as a humanist. Niven-Pournelle, Card, Clark, Tall, Tolkein, the list is too long to remember them all. Omissions are memory failures not intentional.

Interestingly philosophers are not on my hero list, although their contribution to my life has been immense, if only by providing the challenge to my thinking to make it what it is today. A few of them were religious philosophers (theologians) and one Jesuit that made major contributions to my intellectual growth as an atheist.

I would agree with many of the scientist and mathematician heroes but they are not so much in the God wrestling business as in the advancing human knowledge business. Incredibly important in the mind part of the title, but not much in the religion part. Their quest is not religious but the intensely human desire to become omniscient, not by definition, but by hard work."