Friday, December 31, 2010

Atheist Spitituality

The Arena Culture - David Brooks Op-Ed:

Hubert Dreyfus of Berkeley and Sean Dorrance Kelly of Harvard have just done this with their new book, “All Things Shining.” Jan 4, 2011 release

"Dreyfus and Kelly say that we should have the courage not to look for some unitary, totalistic explanation for the universe. Instead, we should live perceptively at the surface, receptive to the moments of transcendent whooshes that we can feel in, say, a concert crowd, or while engaging in a meaningful activity, like making a perfect cup of coffee with a well-crafted pot and cup.

A good description of atheist spirituality that is actively opposed by the faithful who try to co-opt those experiences for God. Just as they try to co-opt all things human good or bad for God.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Experiencing God.

Antitheism? - Beliefnet

I am close enough friends with several Catholics (RCC) to have been invited to participate in services with suspended disbelief, and have discussed the experience with several. In all cases as they genuflect upon entering Church they report a connection with God that is shared by their fellow parishioners. In just one instance, on genuflecting, I felt a 'presence' as described in the God Helmet experiments, but I did not have the historical background with the parish to identify it as anything but something other than self.

This pattern was consistent in several different Churches, with several different orders ranging from milk Catholics who never thought much about God or beliefs, to a Jesuit service with a Jesuit friend who knew God and his belief system intimately and intellectually.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Observer Bias

Perspectivism - Beliefnet

Observer bias is not neutralized, simply accounted for by the interpreter. Nietzsche was biased against a God based view of life, and it was easy to read his conclusions with that in mind. Some here are bigoted against atheists and all things atheistic and again it is easy to compensate for that bigotry. Some here have a religious, God based bias, and again it is easy and reasonable, with a little knowledge about their beliefs to account for and compensate for that bias. In most reasonable situations this is done almost intuitively by observers, and frequently by participants in a discussion, but some are incapable of getting past their own bias to reasonably account for the bias of others.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ring Speciation

The "Dawkins" Petition - Beliefnet

Since Homo Sapiens moved out of the caves they realized that educating and socializing children was the responsibility of the parent, usually the mother. Whatever help she could avail herself of was an evolutionary necessity. Generally this meant learning the customs, mores, and, yes, the religion of the tribe. Those tribes that did not do this well were eliminated from the gene pool.

This is called evolution. It is not pretty, kind, or painless. It is continuing today. Parents will teach their children the customs, mores, and religion of their tribe, and if these teachings are incompatible with an educated, cosmopolitan larger society, there is nothing that educated, cosmopolitan society can do, except perhaps 'Cry, my beloved country' most of you are not going to make it. There are only so many jobs in the Creation Museums, even if a few Governors are convinced that such museums are worthy 'stimulus projects'

There is a clear ring speciation going on in the Human Species today. It is based on intelligent rational thinking as found in the major academic universities. The other end of the ring is the faith based traditional thinking as found in religious academies and the Texas School Board. The mating rituals are different enough that speciation, that is lack of interbreeding will become more and more common until the two ends of the ring will be incompatible. As in all ring speciation the intermediates will breed in both directions, and there will be movement within the ring.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

On Land and Soul Grabs

The "Imperial Brits" are dead - Beliefnet

No one argues that the land grab was not basically secular. Even though a cogent argument can be made that Manifest Destiny had Puritan and other religious roots. All Americans should and most do hang their heads in shame in the face of the historical facts epitomized in the quote attributed to Red Cloud:

“They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they kept only one; they promised to take our land, and they did.”

But the soul grab once the natives were concentrated on the reservations was organized Christian evangelism to destroy the native culture, religion and even language. All Christians should hang their heads in shame in the face of the historical actions of their priests and evangelists. Few do.

Friday, December 17, 2010


Science News, Articles and Information | Scientific American: "Voyager 1 Arrives at the Cusp of Interstellar Space

NASA--Thirty-three years into its voyage, the solar wind speed around Voyager 1 has dropped to zero as the space-hardened craft nears a milestone in its journey out of the solar system.

Ngram viewer

Science News, Articles and Information | Scientific American: "New Tool Tracks Culture from 1500s via Books

Google Books Ngram Viewer--How much has Einstein really been in the public consciousness? Has interest in evolution changed? Web users can find out with this 'culturomics' tool, which provides rapid analyses of 500 billion words from 5.2 million books.

And I though Facebook was a time sink. Please. Nobody even think about this as a Christmyth present.

Unusual Sexuality

BDSM? - Beliefnet

As long as the principle of dignity and respect is part of the game I would agree with Dot. No harm, no foul is as applicable in sexuality as any other area of life.

That said, if you feel uncomfortable with either role, you might find that your minister or a UU counselor might be able to help root out the religious roots of your fascination with the role playing, and as usual light drives out darkness. One of my major beefs with Abrahamic religions are the dysfunctional sexuality doctrines that linger long after everything else has been relegated to the mythbasket.

Critiquing religion

Critiquing religion - Christopher Hitchens - Beliefnet

The major problem with Hitchins is that like many polemicists it is too easy for the target fundies to wiggle free from the diatribe by simply nodding and saying yeah, all the rest of us are going to Hell, but if you listen to those of us who have the truth you can beat the rap. You don't have to do anything but accept Christ as Savior, and of course admit that you are no better than the rest of us sinners who are saved by Christ. In some sects you have to pretend to agree with that little vuvuzela in the fancy dress in the over decorated balcony or you might get thrown out. The best of all worlds. You are still saved, and you don't have to go to church. Of course they will tell you you are not saved, but since you have met Christ and/or God you know the TRUTH.™

I think this out is much more common than admitted by the fundies. And of course by the "Progressive Christians." So in effect is easy for almost any Christian to dismiss the polemic.

I find it much more interesting to attack the irresponsibility of nailing sin on the cross instead of taking responsibility for one's actions. In other words attack the concept of sin as bullshit and a cop out. When you make shit happen you have to clean it up. There isn't much wiggle room in that one. You can always throw the free will thing at them. Yeah you are a sinner, but God gave you the ability to triumph over that sin. (Gen 4:7 if you need the scripture) Why with Hell staring you in the face are you not doing so?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Governing without Religion

Religion and morality - Beliefnet

I haven't read Proud Tower, but from your description it is a polemical view of the reality of dealing with a situation where religion has destroyed the effectiveness of government functions. As they say, it is a dirty job but somebody has to do it.

A more benign view of the same type of solution to the dissolution of a functioning government can be found in Oath of Fealty the Niven-Pournelle description of a corporate archology which has taken over all government functions in the heart of a basically dysfunctional Los Angeles. It is the book which described the difference between their locally functioning society with the surrounding world as "Think of it as evolution in action."

This is basically the genesis of my idea of the ring speciation of humans into believers Homo Religiosis, and rationalists, Homo Intelligentsia, or, to use a less political correct term the intellectual elitists. Looking at the corporate/university enclaves around the country: Silicon Valley; Tri-Cities, NC; Cambridge, MA; Manhattan; Boulder, CO; among many others, there are good local school systems, that feed the universities, and jobs for the graduates of those universities. The rationalists in the rest of the country are either going to have to move, if they have kids that need good K-12 schooling, or tap into the enclaves via the internet if childless, although they will probably move for social reasons.

The reason for the ring speciation hypothesis is that the mating rituals if nothing else will make interbreeding unlikely. In the U/C community mate selection criteria is almost purely on demonstrated intellectual ability. Marriage is late, and children planned usually for near the end of the female's academic tenure. The third year of med school is the breeding season for female med students. A non-breeder by choice complained about the social pressure to get pregnant at that time. (I wonder if that choice will survive in the face of an intellectual equal male determined to improve H. Intelligentsia.) In general I have observed that it is definitely a female choice of breeding partner in the U/C community, although not necessarily but frequently sex partner as well. But the male is going to have to employ powerful intellectual persuasion to get her to lose the contraceptive.

In the religious world male dominance and early marriage is the norm. Think traditional sport star-cheerleader paradigm here. If she isn't pregnant at graduation she failed high school.

It isn't a clean division geographically, but socially the believers are insular, and gravitate to the bad school districts for the lower property values. If the deterioration of the government infrastructure continues outside the U/C enclaves even social contact between the two groups will be limited.

It is interesting to speculate on the political religious right support. Can it be a conspiracy or informal collusion of the U/C elite to restrict the religious poor to the resources of their churches, including the psychological resource of salvation. Are the bankers and the entertainment industries consciously destroying the effectiveness of the popular government so the poor will have no choice but obesity deaths without proper medical care.

The rise of the apocalyptic churches is for me an indication of this trend. Obviously the U/C elite will definitely not be among the saved chosen.

The U/C enclaves have their own private HMO medical systems, good public schools and private internet access to the powerful resources of the community. They have back door entrances for those who can somehow transcend their religion facilitated intellectual disabilities. Open need blind enrollment in the University with its access to the powerful intranet.

The door to breaking the religious social control of learning is of course the internet. The wikis, and the few public access science resources like SciAm on line give those with the interest and ability the key to that back door, but they will have to resist the religious and popular entertainment pressures for couch-potatoism.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Bigotry

Christmas Wars - Beliefnet

I see Happy Holidays as anti-Jewish. Christmas is a celebration of an especially capable Jew. You know he was Jewish because [bigotry deleted] People really resent that billions of people take his ideas seriously. Jesus one way, is another articulation of one God.[Attribution deleted to protect the guilty]

Does Christian or at least one Christian's bigotry know no bounds? Trashing a whole religion to promote a parochial God. Just sick. Christians of all kinds should repudiate this post.

Note beleifnet Christian mods deleted this post. The thread is interesting though without it.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Critiquing religion - Where are the Theists?

Critiquing religion - Christopher Hitchens - Beliefnet

You have identified the major issue here and one that keeps Hitchens in business. That is that those with the high ideals in religion refuse to take those to task for not only failing to live up to the high ideals but trashing them.

Why are those with high religious ideals not on the lecture circuit with Hitchens denouncing the failures? It seems that if God or Christ is mentioned any idea gets a free pass from religions high ideals or no. It simply is not enough to 'create change from within' that is fine and I applaud those who are taking on their own denominational leaders, but why are they not taking their campaign public? Even those like Spong who are taking their heresy public are simply pushing their high ideals such as they are, rather than taking on and denouncing those whose ideals don't reach the standard of despicably low?. Those throwing stones at Hitchens better put some plastic on their high ideals in their stained glass windows, and start throwing stones from the same platforms as Hitchens.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Government in the USA

The Federal Government, indeed government in general, has been irrelevant to the management of the USA since Reagan was elected. It is simply a bucket to keep the grifters, whorehounds, thieves and idiots in a bucket where we can keep an eye on them to make sure they don't do any real damage. Yeah, it is expensive, but the trickle down to the whores, limo drivers, TSA gropers, etc. keeps the local economies moving.

Now, if we only could get the religious right to succeed in seceding we might have a manageable country again. Dream on brothers!

Merry Christmas

Christmas Wars - Beliefnet

Thank you for the greeting.

I intend to have a Merry Christmas in my fashion which includes celebrating the joy of every human birth symbolized by the birth of the human Jesus. Sure, not every birth gets choruses of angels, but he didn't either, so the songs work for all. It takes very little effort to generalize almost all of the Christmas myths to all people. So I do. I can even generalize the virgin as all women who conceive in love.

You go right ahead and celebrate as you will. Put you nativity scenes on the church lawn, I may even stop by to appreciate them in my way. Coincidentally my classical station just played Andrea Bocelli doing a beautiful rendition of Cantique de Noel. It brought tears to my eyes.

I assume that you will spend the rest of the season (since advent has already begun) in prayer and joyful anticipation of the coming of Christ. (By the way why are you jeopardizing your salvation by this secular activity on DA. Please don't take this as criticism, I am all in favor.)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Phenomenology (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Phenomenology (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy):

# Ontology is the study of beings or their being — what is.
# Epistemology is the study of knowledge — how we know.
# Logic is the study of valid reasoning — how to reason.
# Ethics is the study of right and wrong — how we should act.
# Phenomenology is the study of our experience — how we experience.

Fiction, Imagination and Reality.

Phenomenology - Beliefnet:

A child at about 6 or 7 begins to sort out the imaginary and fiction from the real quite naturally. Herm imaginary friend is identified as different from herm real friends. Santa and the tooth fairy are identified as myth (fiction) that may be fun to learn from and play with but are clearly not reality. This process is normally encouraged by care providers as normal progress in learning. It can be subverted by establishing some myths as reality, usually for social conditioning and safety. In a religious community the God myth is strongly promoted as reality, and obedience intentionality toward God as a real 'supercop' is encouraged.

The last chance a child has to reallocate myths to the fiction category is the post pubescent rebellion when the child 'leaves his parents' and 'cleaves' to a new society historically by exogamy, but a recent development (by evolutionary standards) is the leaving home for apprenticeship or scholarship. The myths of the parents are challenged and compared to the myths of the new society and assigned to the appropriate fiction/real categories.

Again this process can be subverted by religious prohibitions to leaving the 'presence of God' for any reason, and a strong endogamy bias.

Those that can, Teach

Those that can, teach, and change the world.

Those that can't teach do. They fool around with things and/or ideas. Useful to be sure, but seldom earth shaking.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

God is Love?

Quantum Theory - Beliefnet :

'God' Is 'LOVE'

It would be useful if you could find any support for this statement in any of the common literature of the Abrahamic God. Or Christian God if you prefer. All available evidence shows He is a misogynist, misanthropist, who loves no one, not even his 'Chosen People.' He demands love, worship, and adoration on pain of death and Hell. And in return gives nothing. Not even respect.

Thank you, I will pass on the love of God.

The Science of Meaning.

The Rosetta Stone, information is material, meaning is not - Beliefnet:

I will admit that in the limited world of the study of consciousness there are no tools for studying emergent properties of the working of the brain. And by the way I am not arguing the mind is an immaterial thing, it is an overlay on the brain and depends on a working brain for its existence. But until your scholars of consciousness can provide a reasonable ontological link between brain action and self, other, and fiction, and reliably distinguish between them as a child of 7 or 8 does quite reliably and naturally, we are in the realm of metaphysics not science.

Perhaps self generated dualism is the best way to think about the relationship between the brain and the mind. It is true that the mind "app" can be reduced to material actions of neuron activity, just as any app can be reduced to the the material changes in the state of silicon switches. But the meaning of the app is not found in the relationship of silicon switches, it is found in the usefulness of the app to the mind "app" using it for whatever useful or useless thing the mind finds to do with the app.

The meaning of Facebook is not found in the material state of some server farm somewhere, it is found in the way real people can use it to stay connected to people who they may have no material connection with. I have never met in person several friends on Facebook, due to geographic limitations, but I would have no qualms about sharing an extended visit with any of them. Indeed, I have done so on a couple of occasions. (I will admit to be very selective in my friends list.)

Similarly the meaningful connection between you and me is not found in the state of the switches at the Silicon Valley and the Minneapolis ends of the fiber optic network, it is the way each of our minds works with the data represented by the states of those switches. Please note that the state of our brains is no more relevant than the state of those switches.

I don't think scientists can think about the issues of mind and meaning as scientists. They just don't have the scientific tools.

I can't prove, but suspect, that the brain processes the information about self, other in the real sense of a known other real person, and a fictional character like God made, after all, in the image of self in much the same way neurologically. All have faces, bodies, emotions, needs, likes, dislikes, etc, that I suspect are processed in the same brain spaces dedicated to tracking those things. But somehow a healthy rational mind can keep the differences sorted out correctly and is able to process information derived from each stored source in an appropriate manner. I am skeptical that the scientists will ever be able to distinguish the stored information about, for example God in a believer, from the stored information about self. Yet the mind does this quite reliably most of the time. Although some of the people posting here make one wonder about how reliable the mind is in this function.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Selfish Gene?

Original sin and the human genome - Origins of Life - Beliefnet Community:

"In some species the individual is the selection unit. For these organisms your assertion is correct. However for social animals the selection unit is the herd or pack or in the case of humans the parish or village. Until very recently banishment from the parish or village was a death sentence. I am not even talking evolutionary time here. Before gunpowder, a lone human was a dead human.

Even today shunning, disfellowshipping, and excommunication can be a cause for suicide in one form or another, drugs, drink, gun, or bridge. If one has been indoctrinated from birth that God loves only those who conform the the dogmas of the parish, being unable to comply for one reason or another is a serious psychological issue. Some are strong enough to find other groups to provide the necessary community, schools and colleges are a common way to deal with loss of faith in one's milk church, which is why so many religious groups try to control the school environment for their children.

If evolution is forbidden as a subject matter, the myth of original sin can be believably insisted upon with its requisite savior. It is no wonder that the religious areas of the country are so active in insuring that special creation is at least taught as an alternative to evolution."

Changing the World

"Is what you’re doing going to change the world?” asked Larry Page, Google’s co-founder. “If not, maybe you should do something else.”

From SciAm December 2010 P.10

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Kinder, Küche, Kirche

Why religious patriarchy is so oppressive - Beliefnet:

"God is losing the Kinder, Küche, Kirche battle, and female believers as well. Although some women will chose (be indoctrinated into) this path, the best and the brightest will leave the religious gene pool.

Think of it as evolution in action."