Friday, May 29, 2009

Shortchanging the Living

Available evidence shows that after we die there is no way to do anything at all for those who remain alive. All that they have is whatever legacy is built for them by the deceased. The material legacy is of questionable value. As Lazarus Long says
Don't handicap your children by making their lives too easy.

The emotional and intellectual legacy is far more important, and the beauty is that building it simply means paying attention to those who will enjoy it.

I wonder about those who spend their lives chasing a place in Heaven. What do those that remain get besides a nice party to send them off to Heaven. When the living think about the deceased, what to they think about? Do they simply wonder if the bet on Pascal's wager has paid off? I guess if they have been conditioned properly and are investing heavily at the Pascal Casino themselves this is OK. But what a waste.

When I think of my deceased parents, and those close to them and to me that are no longer living, I never wonder about what they are doing now, I am too busy reviewing all the important lessons they taught me and the rest of my world in their rich lives that were dedidicated to making that world the best they could make it. Certainly lives worth dying for in Forrest's words.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Eternal Reflections

Email in response to an ex Christian's questions about death.

"The issue of mortality is a very difficult one for former Christians since Pie in the Sky after you die is really all Christians have to sell these days so they sell the Hell out of it. If you ask a Christian 'Why' when they blather about eternal bliss kissing God's ass in heaven, you will get some interesting reactions, but almost all of them boil down to Why Not?

I would suggest that you ask yourself that question? Why do you want eternal life? Why would you want some sort of existence after you die? Particularly since available evidence says you can do nothing for those that remain after you. The most likely scenario is you spend the first millennium sucking your thumb and gazing at your navel and trying to figure out something different to do for the next millennium. That is a pretty good definition of Hell as far as I am concerned. The alternative of kissing God's ass is just as bad.

One resource and a thought. The resource is Love and Death by Forrest Church. Forrest is living on time borrowed from the medical profession in spite of their assurances that they had no time to lend. He was not lying in a sermon he gave in which he said he had six months to live. That was a very generous estimate given his metastasized esophageal cancer. Love and Death grew out of that diagnosis. It turned out that the medico's were mistaken, but that wasn't Forrest's fault although his incredible will to live probably influenced the outcome.

The thought is that there is no atheist dogma that says that an afterlife is not possible. The only dogma that applies is that Pascal's wager is a losing bet because if there is an afterlife it is certain that a non-existent God has no influence at all on it. Kiss Herm ass all you want to while you are alive and whatever happens after you die will happen just the same as if you kissed some other God's ass or your own for that matter.

Some people think that there is a possibility, slim, that a natural result of death is that the spirit is released to continuing doing whatever one has been doing in life with the other spirits that have been released from their bodies. The only difference this should make in one's life is that it is even more important to live in a way that you would be happy to live with forever. If there is no end to the spirit at death, then the spirit had better be well trained in enjoying whatever it does.

Thanks for your questions, At my age I need to think about them.

The Human Mind Trumps everything

Belief Corner: Religious and Political Debate - Educated out of God?: "Yep. and the human mind trumps everything.

When the human brain finally matures it potentially, note, potentially not necessarily, is able to override both genetic and environmental programming to take control of its destiny. It may not have complete freedom of action, Steven Hawking cannot control the disease in control of his body, and John Nash had to overcome his probably genetic schizophrenia, but their minds were able to control their mental destiny. Extreme cases to be sure, but functioning adult downs syndrome people, who are making the best of their limited mental capabilities are common enough to be seen frequently in public.

Most people with disabilities either genetic or environmental, need help and support both medical and emotional to assume control, and it certainly is not automatic, but it is possible and happens frequently enough that I will stand by my statement that the human mind trumps all. It is of course a choice to play the trump, and some chose not to. A tightly controlled religious upbringing is the most common environmental programming that is accepted without question by the mind and the trump to override is never played. But enough are, even in tight fundamentalist societies, that the mind even trumps God."

This was in response to one of those tedious nature vs nurture debates with respect to God beliefs. The preceeding imo renders the whole subject moot.

Genetic determinism?

Belief Corner: Religious and Political Debate - Educated out of God?: "What those genes have given humans is an extremely flexible massively parallel computer that for instance is capable of recognizing friends instantly from a variety of positions and from body language and facial expressions determine their mood and feelings toward us at that moment and then communicating that information almost instantaneously through large fast mono-dendrite nerves to action centers of the brain which use the information to take appropriate action. One might say that the ability to recognize faces and determine moods is genetic and perhaps it is. But appropriate actions in response to that knowledge? Aside from simple paradigms like fight or fly, useful of course but not real useful at a cocktail party or business meeting, the mind has considerable flexibility in determining appropriate behaviors. Unless the genetic imperative is do the right thing, the genetic component in normal social interactions is nil."

The Post-Rapture Postman - Postal Service for the Saved? There's a sucker born again every minute II

Beliefnet Community > Thread - The Post-Rapture Postman -: "Just dug up this article from Orlando, Florida and thought it was too funny! An enterprising entrepreneur in Orlando Florida is offering to deliver messages to friends and relatives Left Behind on behalf of believers who fully expect to be swept up into the Rapture. Since he's an atheist, he'll undoubtedly be Left Behind as well when the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse thunder over the horizon......."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

What makes a social animal.

Brain Cells for Socializing | Science & Nature | Smithsonian Magazine:

"Allman likes to show a clip from a documentary about a group of African elephants that adopted an orphaned calf. When the baby elephant falls into a water hole, the matriarch quickly marches in, followed by the others. Together she and a second female use their tusks, trunks and legs to free the calf from the muck. Another animal paws at the steep bank with its foot, building a ramp the youngster uses to climb to safety. 'It's really remarkable,' says Allman of how the elephants rapidly sized up the crisis and worked together to save the baby. 'It's a very high sort of functioning that very few animals are able to do. And,' he adds with a chuckle, 'humans can do it only on good days.'"

An amazing article on a particular high speed nerve cell in the brain that seems to facilitate the recognition of social signals in a few highly social intelligent species like higher primates, elephants, whales, dolphins, and orcas.

Determining moral actions

Belief Corner: Deciding Whether Something is Moral:

"In a moral crisis situation there is no time for analysis. The moral sense of the person will determine the moral choice.

Moral sense is very similar to language. We get the basics and the ability to function morally from our parents and/or care givers as infants and toddlers. The genetic imperative is to make mom smile. As the child grows and joins social groups other than family the moral sense will be refined by what works to keep the paddle off the butt, or other disincentive for anti-social actions. Compliance with the mores of the peer group, that is avoiding ostracism guides pre- and early adolescence and moral development may end there for many. Religion driven morality generally results in such stagnation of moral development.

As the individual matures and makes choices about social connections the morality of the chosen social group will normally be accepted with varying degrees of thoughtfulness and analysis, but once the moral sense is conditioned it will guide actions in all moral situations. Post crisis analysis may result in the modification of the moral sense but action in all cases is determined by the developed moral sense at that point."

Monday, May 18, 2009

Rob Paterson's "Eternal Reflections"

Compose Mail - Yahoo! Mail: " Re. Rob Paterson's Eternal Reflections

If this is not in your [Volti] 30 year recording project, it must be. It is an incredibly moving piece for young and old alike. Colin being the young and Carlin being the old. I don't know where Mary Rose fits in. It has the makings of a modern Choral Standard, Volti should do what you can to help it along the path. Thank you for the commission and the first performance, but the commercial recording will put the icing on the wonderful cake you made."

One would think that three texts on eschatology, tragedy, and death would make for a rather dismal piece of music. But Rob has created one of the most moving and beautiful compositions it has ever been my pleasure to hear. A poignant pleasure to be sure, but aren't those really the best kind?

If you ever get a chance to hear this work, or Volti does record it, let nothing get in your way. Hear it!

Edited to reflect title change by the composer. Even though he ignored my suggestions I was honored to be a part of the process.

Yosemite Springs BB

Yosemite Springs BB - conventionally Reviews, Cheap Rates, Deals conventionally - Coulterville | coffee shopcoffeemaker: "Yosemite Springs BB - conventionally Reviews, Cheap Rates, Deals conventionally - Coulterville
5 月 18th, 2009 · コメントはまだありません

I am a swotter and homelessness to in good likeness pennies wherever I can. mostly Yosemite Springs is frightful because you breath at a wonderful ritzy chair to set-back in restitution consent the unusually judge as a motel cubicle quarters. mostly The rations is absolutely exclusive cooked, the towels are muted, there is DirecTV and DVD players in each cubicle quarters and there is a steam flood so you can get rid of yourself of all of the confidential data you aggregate while hiking."

Absolutely brilliant automatic translation. Makes me want to jump in the car and Go! But instead I will probably spend the day trying to scrut the inscrutable Japanese mind to put together an idiomatic English translation.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Is forcing people to live ethical?

Growing Old with Autism: The Silent Struggle - TIME: "Noah, my younger brother, does not talk. Nor can he dress himself, prepare a meal for himself or wipe himself. He is a 42-year-old man, balding, gaunt, angry and, literally, crazy. And having spent 15 years at the Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa, Calif., a state facility, Noah has picked up the con's trick of lashing out before anyone could take a shot at him.

Noah's autism has been marked by 'three identified high priority maladaptive behaviors that interfere with his adaptive programming. These include banging his head against solid surfaces, pinching himself and grabbing others,'"

Related: From The Responsibility Project "An Alzheimer patient has wandered off again. What do you do?

I am beginning to wonder if we are being cruel to these people by forcing them to stay alive. The Responsibility Project would not allow my comment: "Maybe he is wandering off to find a place to die." Maybe the Autism patient is banging his head against the wall in an ineffective suicide attempt.

Just because the body is capable of supporting life are we being ethical in forcing it to do so in the absence of informed consent of the mind controlling that body? There are of course difficult issues of determining intent from a damaged mind, but is it not ethically presumptuous to say the head banging or the wandering off is not a suicide attempt, or at the very least an attempt to end the lack of control over one's life?

I have given explicit instruction to my family that if the genetic dementia expresses itself in spite of the medical preventative measures, they are to find a care facility near the back country in the Sierra, Hetch Hetchy, by preference with explicit instructions not to limit my wandering off. If some day I don't return they may assume that I was careless and provided lunch for a bear. It wouldn't offend me in the least to be recycled in that manner.

My family on my mother's side has a tradition of "Turning their face to the wall" when they decide their will to live is no longer present. Not a bad choice, and I am sure I could do it when necessary, but I would much rather wander in the wilderness on my last day and "Turn my face to the cliff." Sure I will feed a wild animal instead of a crematory, but the wild animal won't care or know the difference between me and any other dead or dying large animal.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Chemist Shows How RNA Can Be the Starting Point for Life -

"An English chemist has found the hidden gateway to the RNA world, the chemical milieu from which the first forms of life are thought to have emerged on earth some 3.8 billion years ago.

He has solved a problem that for 20 years has thwarted researchers trying to understand the origin of life — how the building blocks of RNA, called nucleotides, could have spontaneously assembled themselves in the conditions of the primitive earth. The discovery, if correct, should set researchers on the right track to solving many other mysteries about the origin of life. It will also mean that for the first time a plausible explanation exists for how an information-carrying biological molecule could have emerged through natural processes from chemicals on the primitive earth.

The author, John D. Sutherland, a chemist at the University of Manchester, likened his work to a crossword puzzle in which doing the first clues makes the others easier."

I like his theory as it takes place in the warm puddles that life like us should start in. The high energy source is UV rather than geothermal which again makes more sense for surface life. A major step in the right direction as it gives a plausible pathway to RNA.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


The blue roads of thinking: Thinking about Death.: "Have you ever thought about How Life on earth ever began?"

I am a chemist by training if not inclination anymore, and I have no problem at all with natural abiogenesis. Organic molecules that can hook up will and will try every way possible. (Kind of like some people I know.) The fact (observed) that ACGT/U formed a stable and self-replicating combination is not surprising. Nor is it surprising that once the replicator was formed that it used up all the ACGT and U that was available making more replicators. Nor that once formed the replicators "got busy" making more efficient replicators.

If it makes you feel good to think that God made the first replicator and threw it into the ACGTU soup to make more replicators be my guest. Or is God the first simple RNA molecule and jumped into the ACGTU soup to make more RNA in Herm image? Then like the Sorcerers Apprentice just couldn't turn off all the multiplying and changing stuff that resulted. And finally when humans came around Hesh got so pissed off Hesh flooded the world to try to start over. Didn't work obviously.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Thinking about Death.

Beliefnet Community > Thread - My Story: Atheist by Necessity, not by Choice!:

"Personally I find that the probability of an afterlife is close to zero is quite liberating. As Forrest Church says in Love and Death, love survives death and those we have loved and made a difference in their lives will love us in return and as we think of those who have died with love and respect those who follow us will pay it forward with the same love and respect. They will tell stories about me to the next few generations and maybe someone will learn something. I do my best in life to build a Legacy that will be worth telling stories about.

Just recently I passed some advice from my father, a great athlete, to his great grandson who will probably not be a great athlete but who is trying to learn a sport for fun. Maybe my grandson didn't even listen, but the time I spent with the memories of my father and the love I still gave and received from him makes his death merely a release from the pain of the cancer that took his life."

Atheist divorce

The Bright Line...:
Still, I think there's more to it [Why there is less divorce among atheists.] More than the lack of religion to not fight about.

"Actually there is. Since atheists do not have a prepackaged moral system handed to them 'From God' they need to have figured out a moral system that works in the society that they find themselves in. Relationships with others in the society will necessarily be an important part of that morality. In all important relationships a functioning atheist will have a good idea of the reciprocal responsibilities in the relationship and be comfortable with them or will not enter into the relationship.

Most atheists I know are almost prudish when it comes to sex, and won't even think of procreative sex without a stable relationship to support it. Even 'Recreational sex' is approached with extreme care due to the implied commitments involved.

It is real hard for an atheist to hide from God and sneak a push in the bush. The atheist's moral judge always knows exactly what hesh is doing and whether it is right or wrong. And if it is wrong the atheist can't just nail it to the cross and forget it. If it is wrong, it has to be fixed."

This does not mean that divorce is not common, but it is generally later in life and usually after children are independent if there are children involved. An important part of this is that much of the married atheist's society revolves around the family, and there is little emotional support for those who choose to leave the family. In a church the congregation will choose sides, but there will always be emotional support for the "Sinner" in the broken relationship. An atheist does not have this support, so the justification for the break up has to be pretty strong to avoid losing a good chunk of one's friends and acquaintances.

Lenore Skenazy -- Quit Treating Parents Like Babies -

Lenore Skenazy -- Quit Treating Parents Like Babies -

"And here's my favorite recommendation from a book of 'Baby Must-Haves' (yes, a 200-plus-page volume on items you simply must buy unless you want your baby to be seriously deprived): 'You'll get more bang for your buck with a toy that can be played with in more than one way -- for instance, a push toy that can also be pulled.'

Now, you've got to feel sorry for the poor writer who had to come up with something -- anything -- to say about a pull toy. But can you think of a push toy that can't be pulled? Can you think of any toy that can't be pulled, besides a cranky daddy trying to watch SportsCenter?"

I guess these are for those who don't have a pastor to guide them in these and other areas of their lives that are on a similar level. Need help in socializing your child? Bring herm to our Cradle Service where only our brand of God will infect your child's mind. As the Jesuits point out by the time hesh is 10 we will own him. It works for any cult.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Would Jesus refute theTelevangelists?

Beliefnet Community > Thread - Human Dignity, Good and Evil:
Yes, it does matter [when Paul lived], because people that knew Jesus were still alive, and therefore would have attempted to correct him or refute him, if his info about Jesus was incorrect.
El Cid

"Paul was creating a cult based on Jesus Christ, not Jesus. The only relationship of Jesus of Nazareth to Jesus Christ was the hijacking of his name and charisma. The three Synoptic Gospels which were written after Paul, are a systematic and largely successful exercise in correcting and refuting Paul.

It is impossible to read Paul with the synoptics open in three other bibles and find anything in the synoptics that supports anything in Paul. It is almost a trivial exercise in reading comprehension to find a refutation of Paul's misanthropy and misogyny in any random passage from the words of Jesus in one of the three gospels. If you do it in the other direction that is read the synoptics and try to find anything at all in Paul's misanthropy and misogyny that relates to the Jesus you find in the synoptics, you will find absolutely nothing.

I find the evidence for the existence of Jesus, the itinerant preacher and entertainer, persuasive. He would be a great televangelist today and as then he would refute all the Pauline garbage preached by the followers of his competitor in the religious leader industry."

What would Jesus do? If he were alive today would he have a television ministry based in a megachurch in Marin County? It sure wouldn't be in LaLa Land. Would he be regaling against the preachers of hate for your neighbors of the wrong religion, color, or sexual preference? Would he be successful?

I think the answers to all of the above would be yes. We are seeing a return to the gospels, particularly the Two Great Commandments in many local congregations in many of the big denominations. Certainly the bigots are the loudest and sell the lead in and follow up ads and so are supported by the networks or at least the cable companies. Someone foaming at the mouth at a gay person's funeral will get a spot on the news just like a train wreck. All the news companies care about is eyeballs, they don't care if the eyeball is blurry from booze or not, well, they do boozers buy. Train wrecks sell ads, and any train wreck will do. An emotional train wreck is as good, or maybe better than a steel one. They can milk it longer.