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 |
"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.