Saturday, December 31, 2011

Atheism and Existentialism


Human Social Development ISN'T a deeply Existential Matter ... ???

Only for those whose God has failed them. If they have been indoctrinated into God dependence from childhood, they do not have the social resources to deal with the existential crisis of the loss of God when it is not their choice. Their church can only tell them to have faith in God Who cannot fail, when in fact He has failed miserably. They are left only with the fact of their existence and are forced to make sense of it. As Sartre wails in the title of his play there is NO EXIT! God is dead, the social support group still clinging to God is useless, and the atheist humanists were so far underground that there was no help there.

Fortunately that is changing. There is a critical mass of people comfortable with their atheism that those willing to reach out from their existential morass can get the human community support they so desperately need.

For others the existential crisis is unnecessary, as they move into and with a secular commuinity they no longer have to tolerate the dysfunctional relationship with God and can cut the dependency by choice.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Music on a Vuvuzela

Vuvuzela Music FAQWhen people first time try out a vuvuzela, they tend to look at the mouthpiece, see the hole, blow some air into it and surprisedly listen what happens: "pfffff pfffffff..." - nothing! Slowly noticing that this is obviously more than one of those toy party horns, the next they typically do is reading either an instruction sheet (if present) or look for help on vendors websites. And there they usually find something stupid like "Close your lips and blow through them to make them vibrate with a farting noise. Squeeze the mouthpiece against them and BLOOOOOWWWWW as strong as you can..." And after the vase is broken, the wall clock stands still and the last shard of the fallen chandelier has stopped rolling around on floor, you can stop blowing now... ;-) Although that tip may help to toot loudly, it is useless for melody play, thus it is best to forget this for now and try something else. Also the common establishment's claim that one can anyway blow only about 3 different notes on such a short horn only refers to a certain type of very loud signal tones and deserves to be ignored. Claiming that it can't do others is like saying that a skateboard can not be steered because it has no steering wheel. Already millennia ago people played melodies on similar instruments, so let's now try what's possible.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Christian asks about Dying

I hope you followed the link to legacy it should explain much. With nothing expected after death, you look backward, if you have taught your children well, all of them, not just your own, you should be confident that there are many who can build on your legacy for a better world for all who follow.

Thinking about the unknown that happens after death is a waste of time. All the data points to no answer. If there is something after death it would make no difference at all in how I live. If I have lived a moral, useful life any possible afterlife concierge would consider that and nothing else. Or as Forrest Church frequently charged "Live a life worth dying for." Note the active verb is "live."

Consider the second runner in a relay race. What does hesh think as hesh passes the baton? Hesh is probably the weakest runner, but if hesh did herm very best, the others may win the race. So, as hesh ran all that mattered was that hesh ran well. Focusing on anything else would doom the race.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Book of Goddesses: Robert Paterson

The facinating background on the upcomming release of the new CD Dec 6 Use CDbaby it is more fun and better for the artists.

My guess: it will be spectacular, and the packaging will be glorious under the tree without even a bow.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Absolute Moral Authority.


The Bible has indeed been RECEIVED ais "Authoritative" ... This is so not least because an entire Community has received It so ...

And thus we return to the topic. Absolute Moral Authority is whatever an entire community has accepted as morally authoritative. Different communities will of course differ on the source of that moral authority, it may be God, it may be some version of the Bible, or more commonly some quote mines from a particular version of the Bible, it may be the mediator for God, it may be Mrs. Grundy. In an advanced larger society the source is more diffuse, but no less definite. As an example in the large society of research scientists, one must not knowingly falsify data, one must cite all relevant influences on the research, and peer review either of knowledgeable people within a organization if it is proprietary research, or public if it is academic research. Any breech of these moral standards will result in "excommunication" and no scientific employment will be available.

Dogs and people.

Afghans generally consider dogs filthy animals and will use them to guard their homes, but they don't treat them the way Americans treat pets, according to many soldiers. There are hundreds of stray animals that must hunt for scraps of food, endure the scorching desert sun and freezing winters, and generally live by their wits. Van Alstine took Chloe into his tent, groomed her daily and fed her his own rations. She was always by his side on the base and walked next to him on every foot patrol.

Read more:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Absolute Moral Authority.

There is an absolute moral authority it comes from the evolutionary need for intelligent social animals to live, breed and compete under a moral system that allows most to survive. This natural absolute moral authority is generally based on the needs of an extended village, and is frequently hijacked by shamans, priest, pastors, imams and other self-appointed mediators for God in the service of themselves, God and always themselves. But the absolute moral authority comes from the society not from the God.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Religion, Music and Art


I have explored the entire realm of seeking called religion and found absolutely nothing useful for living except the music and art that probably have nothing to do with religion except a payday. Religion tries to hijack every basic human need in the service of whatever God is handy and will pay for the privilege. Intelligent and creative people are happy to accept the paycheck, and some of them may believe, but their belief proves nothing but that even intelligent and creative people can be duped by shamans and priests.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Defining Right and Wrong vs Morality


we're confusing DEFINING right/wrong... from KNOWING right/wrong.
Aka me, all
Not we, you and religions. Most of us social animals have no problem knowing right from wrong which is the natural imprinting of proper social behavior by the herd, pack, or tribe necessary for the survival of the herd, pack, or tribe (or equivalent social structure whatever the arrogant human animals call it.)
Most religions have elaborate definitions of right/wrong for the benefit of the shamans to control the tribe, occasionally for the benefit of the God of the tribe, less frequently for the benefit of the tribe itself and always for the benefit of the shamans. Thanks RAH.
animals are incapable of knowing WRONG. they don't have an internal moral compass. what they have is instinct through genetic programming
You are a bit confused here, animals don’t define wrong, they generally do not have shamans to tell them what it is. They do have a moral compass, partly genetic, mostly imprinted by parents and alphas where the genetic social structure is alpha driven. All social animals have the equivalent of the canine “play bow” to indicate learning behavior, including play fighting and hunting to learn proper behaviors.
The difficulty here is accepting humans as being more than animals, because then we have to start talking about "what" makes them more than animals, and conversation is then heading in the direction of discussing souls.
Again the difficulty is religious as religions have to impose a soul or equivalent on the human animal to define right and wrong for the benefit of the shamans. Without a soul the human animal generally gets along well with at least the extended tribe, including the women and children.
it's not hard to see the cause of the current frustration.
Yeah, we don’t believe in the shamans or God.

Dot's Spirituality


All humans feel awe and wonder resulting from certain things--a beautiful sunrise or sunset, rainbow after a bad thunderstorm, the first day of chilly weather portending the coming of winter, an unexpected act of kindness, a child's delight in simple things.

That we do is simply human, no gods involved, IMO. Current research has identified areas of the brain which react in this way. We're all wired to marvel at things.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Atheist Morality


Morality for atheists comes from the same place that morality for theists comes from: The society of the peers we respect and interact with. The difference is that there is no God arbiter in an atheist society. Therefore the morality of an atheist is generally compliant with the current social imperatives of living in an interdependent, information rich, international, cosmopolitan society. Atheist morality has little to do with the needs of a group of bronze age desert marauders.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Emotional Wounds.

Time and brain chemistry heal all wounds even emotional ones.
I know I’m not physically hurt. Though it feels like I’ve been kicked in the stomach with steel-toed boots, my abdomen isn’t bruised. Spiking cortisol levels are causing my muscles to tense and diverting blood away from my gut, leading to this twisting, gnawing agony that I cannot stop thinking about. I can’t stop crying. I can’t move. I just stare at the ceiling, wondering when, if ever, this pain is going to go away.
Pain is a strong motivator; it is the primary way for our bodies tell us that something is wrong and needs to be fixed. Our intense aversion to pain causes us to instantly change behavior to ensure we don’t hurt anymore. Since the need to maintain social bonds is crucial to mammalian survival, experiencing pain when they are threatened is an adaptive way to prevent the potential danger of being alone.
Where music comes from, or even why we like and create music, is still a mystery. What we do know is that it has a powerful affect on our brains. Music evokes strong emotions and changes how we perceive the world around us. Simply listening to music causes the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter linked to the brain’s reward system and feelings of happiness. But even more impressive is its affect on pain. Multiple studies have shown that listening to music alters our perception of painful stimuli and strengthens feelings of control. People are able to tolerate pain for longer periods of time when listening to music, and will even rate the severity of the sensation as lower, suggesting that something so simple as a melody has a direct affect on our neural pathways.

Yet people wonder about teen suicides caused by rejection whether religious or social.

The whole blog post is incredible. A must read.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Faith as Morton's Demon

What think ye? Can you consider that you (A or T) can't really be objective, that your neural structure will not let you be objective? And, is there a means to "deconstruct" our (unconscious) bias, and see the world as it is in actuality?

Interesting observation. However the major difference between the theist and the atheist is the concept of faith or acceptance of that which cannot be observed in any ordinary manner. While our worldviews are built from the input of our social support group, the theistic support group includes the faith concept which acts as a Morton’s demon to filter out that which conflicts with the faith teachings. Confirmation bias of course exists in all world views, but it is institutionalized in the theistic worldview with the concept of faith or belief. Faith is intrinsic in the teachings about God and any ancillary supporting entities, which cannot be questioned in any normal way, but must be accepted as taught as true. Therefore the confirmation bias cannot even be examined in a realistic way as long as the God is accepted as taught.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Atheism vs Skepticism

There is some confusion in the minds of many including religious skeptics as to the relationship of skepticism to atheism. I think it is fair to say that all skeptics are atheists. It is not true however, that all atheists are skeptics. There are atheists that are not skeptics in that they are agnostic about many of the gaps normally filled by God. Reiki, ESP, paranormal phenomenena in general other unexplained activities of the mind/brain are simply unexplained phenenomena which are not attributed to God, hence atheistic, but simply unknowns. A religious skeptic believes that since God cannot be responsible it must be false.

The religion of skepticism can be just as irrational as any other religion, and skeptical beliefs like beliefs in any religion are frequently strongly held and vigorously defended. It is amusing to some of the atheists here who do not believe in Randi to see the God like status in him assumed by skeptics. Randi says it. I believe it. That settles it.

I am one of the atheists here that has found convincing evidence that the mind or brain if you prefer has much more control over the working of the body and the social environment than can be presently explained by science. I do not use skepticism of the gaps to deny or argue against alternative medicine or any other unexplained observations about workings of the human mind.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Atheism and Being Human


Actually even in cases [failed theists] such as you describe, they are "observing the world" and finding that atheism does not fulfill what they know of the reality of being human.
El Cid
Nolo contendere. Atheism has never pretended to be a fulfilling philosophy for the reality of being human. All atheism is a rejection of God as being fulfilling for the reality of being human. This may be done for many reasons. One of the more common is the “hiding” from God. While this meets the definition for atheism it is a weak sort of atheism ready and willing to grab the God life saver when they can’t cope with reality.

Until one has replaced the big two of morality and death as mediated by God and come up with a coherent worldview that is both moral and realistic about death that does not involve God atheism is simply a meaningless label to fool the self and hopefully others.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Is Life Enough?

When is one's current (often rather inadequate and inaccurate) understanding of reality enough? Shouldn't one desire more?

One's current (often rather inadequate and inaccurate) understanding of reality is never enough. But by sharing one's current (often rather inadequate and inaccurate) understanding of reality with others with perhaps more wisdom or drive to make it more accurate and adequate is how human progress happens.

I have no intention of ceasing to share my current (often rather inadequate and inaccurate) understanding of reality with others, indeed that is why I get out of bed each morning, even though I know I will be unable to do so relatively soon.

I have already seen how others with more wisdom and drive have taken what I have shared to places I cannot get to. I see others in the process of doing so, and am quite confident that they will achieve goals that are beyond my capabilities. Have I personally changed my world for the better? I think so, but others are doing as much or more.

I have no time to appease some God so that I might increase my current (often rather inadequate and inaccurate) understanding of reality after I die. I do the best I can with what I have. If I haven't learned enough and shared enough by now one thing is certain: all the learning I achieve after death is useless. I never will share it with anyone who can affect humankind.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Atheists on the will to live.

All my life I have been positive but lately I have been thinking why? I do not see the reason to live. I mean it all ends in death anyway.
Isn't that a bit like saying; what's the use in baking a cake because it just gets eaten?

When it is gone it is gone.
There's no particular reason to live, but most of us have got into the habit of it. As long as we're doing it, we might as well make the best of it.
Life is an end in itself. It is pointless to look for the reason to live beyond living itself.
What is the best of it?
Being reasonably comfortable and having something interesting to do.

But don't you want to just lay that down sometimes. As you said before no one will remember the person anyway.
Why would I want to be uncomfortable and uninterested? And why would I care whether anyone remembers me or not? My contentment doesn't depend on other people's opinions.
Perhaps not, but if you change someone's life they will remember the change. Is that not enough?
Some of the Buddhists that I have met over the years have said that one of the things that humans find difficult is valuing things that are impermanent; they tend to find value in things that they consider permanent, unchanging, and eternal. But just because something does not last forever does not mean that is is not of value, or that we cannot find a reason in it. Likewise, the idea of "being forever known" (as Charlotte Bronte phrased it). We may remember someone like Steve Jobs now, and he may have invented a number of things that many people find beneficial, and we consider him a "genius," but the things that he did does not mean that his name, let alone his life, will be remembered years from now. And does it really matter that people who did not personally know someone like Steve Jobs remembers him? I don't know. I'd personally prefer to be remembered by a few family and friends for a brief while after I have died rather than have people far in the distant future recall me.

Some authors, like Charlotte Bronte and Anne Frank, really did want to be forever known, while others, such as Emily Bronte, merely wanted to be left alone and to remain anonymous.

Sometimes individuals like Steve Jobs can make our lives look pretty puny and worthless. That, I think, is one of the problems with heroes and other individuals. We may celebrate them for their acomplishments, but they can make us devalue our own lives. But just because someone like Jobs is so famous now does not mean that his life was any better than anyone else's, or that what he accomplished is somehow better than, for instance, all of the men and women throughout history whose names are not famous. Many people accomplish great things -- things that are not celebrated in heroic songs, or that are not included in world history chronicles.

I don’t know. Lying in bed at night knowing this –dying- which we will all do I do not know. How do you know my friend?

there are many reasons to enjoy life to the fullest:
passion for a hobby, mine is flying.
passion for those we love, mine is my wife and son.
pleasure of experiencing new things, like getting a pilot's license, or flying an ultalight at 5300 feet to discover a commercial airplane coming straight at you wondering if you have enough metal to show up on their radar.
satisfaction of making the world a better place.
enjoyment of helping someone in need.
even simple things like an excellent dinner with someone special.
I've long felt like life is passing me by, without having done anything extraordinary. since Steve Jobs passed away I've been asking myself "why does that does it bother me so much?"

I know a I have been asking myself, because of Jobs, the same thing.
Don't know if anyone remembers a movie with Robert Duval and James Earl Jones, "A Family Thing".
My favorite scene is Duval explaining to his newly met nephew that happiness is as simple as having something to look forward to.
I've long felt like life is passing me by, without having done anything extraordinary.
Where would we be if it weren't for the billions of people who never do anything extraordinary? They keep things going.

I guess that what bothers me the most is I do not care to dream anymore.
I can not seem to capture my happiness. I read poetry and it does not help. I take my long walks on the river. I spend time with friends. Who knew?
Then find an old dream and make it happen.

Have you ever had a time in your life when you could not dream of better things. I ask you because you seem honest.
I don't dream of better things. I fully accept that my life is as good as it will ever be. But I don't care. It's good enough
Many times. Which is why old dreams had to do. And each time the old dream led to new ones. As a result I keep a stock of old dreams around for emergencies.
Is love an opinion?
I'd personally prefer to be remembered by a few family and friends for a brief while after I have died rather than have people far in the distant future recall me.

Yes that would be nice but as you know my family are all gone.
But you have friends -- and me.

Yes thank you. You hold away the thought of death for me.
I want to be clear the WHY is about the fear of death. Do you not have it?
I know ma but has there not been times in your life when you needed a reason?
I can't say that I've had much existential angst in my life. I've always found values that make life worth living. They don't have to be grand values either. Sometimes it's just anticipating movies based on some novel I've enjoyed in the past, such as the Lord of the Rings movies.
But I always locate my reasons in this life, and never outside.
Also, I don't try to force meaning onto life. There is an unusual aspect to happiness, and that is that it can't be achieved directly. It can only be approached indirectly. It's almost something that has to sneak up on you from behind, as you do things that suit you.
So, I do what I enjoy and find interesting and challenging. Meaning catches up
Yes I also in the past have seen it that way.
I know but can atheist ideology fix things?
Sartre seemed to have thought so, but some critics think that his three-part system (anguish, forlornness, and despair) is only really relevant for former Catholics during the mid-20th century, and is of little use for anyone else during any other time period. (And the fact that Sartre was supportive of suicide makes his atheist Existentialism unacceptable for some people who otherwise support his Existential ideas.) Other than Sartre's, I am not familiar with any other atheist ideology, unless you are referring to an individual atheist's ideology, one that he or she personally invents for his or her own life
That all depends on what we want it to fix, I suppose. Atheism doesn't seem to particularly fix our human struggles for meaning, purpose, and value, nor does it seem to particularly fix our human knowledge of our own mortality. Theism, though, doesn't particularly seem to fix those things, either. Saint Therese of Lisieux and Mother Teresa of Calcutta, for instance, are two examples of theists who seemed to struggle through much of their lives with a search for meaning and purpose.
No, but it does give you an incentive to fix things for somebody that God isn't going to fix either. Maybe that somebody is you, maybe somebody else.

If it is to be it is up to me to do it.

I find that a liberating, demanding, and inspiring thought. If something needs to be fixed, neither God nor atheism is going to fix it. And there is always something that needs fixing. Endless opportunities to make each day worth dying for.
I want to be clear the WHY is about the fear of death. Do you not have it?
You can find an extended answer on Thinking About Death. It is an atheist's answer.
The short answer is I do not fear death.

The preceeding was extracted and rearranged from a beliefnet thread. Names abbreviated as this was obviously a personal thread.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Life 101

“Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.”
― Dr. Seuss
Thanks for finding this Jamel Oeser-Sweat

Friday, September 30, 2011

Elizabeth Warren on Success

Perhaps the lesson for the wealthy that trashing the social support is trashing self will soon be apparant. The writing is on the wall, and the night is falling.

No less of a Robber Baron than Henry Ford said (paraphrased) if I pay my workers enough to afford a car they will buy one and support the economy. The other car companies had to follow and for better or for worse the American economy was built on the automobile and the auto workers. Short lived as all progress is, by the late 20's wealth was moving up again and Hoover was attached to informal communities all over the country.

I recently read an article that by the end of each month even Wal-Mart is finding out that starvation wages can't even buy the cheapest shit in town.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Jesus' Sources


There is nothing original about Jesus' "understanding." Virtually everything he said can be found in Cynic philosophy and liberal Pharasaism.

True but it was neither Cynic or Pharasaism, it was his synthesis of the important ideas of both, and certainly his showmanship in presenting the synthesis that made his message so important for its time. The fact that there are still many people trying to emulate his teachings no matter how corrupted, although some are going back to the gospels only, that makes Jesus so important in western religions. Show me a Cynic or a Pharasee of similar influence.

That's not a fair request. None of the Cynics or Pharasees had the advantage of being turned into gods.

Apparantly none of them had enough influence to be considered for the role. Jesus did. Against his specific wishes I might add. Sorry, I can't resist. Over his dead body so to speak.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Source of Wisdom


In a modern working society there is no single source of wisdom. All profound thinkers have been examined by peers and then the profound thoughts are further winnowed by thoughtful people who are the intellectual leaders of the society. The result is a society which integrates the wisdom of all and benefits not only those who choose to be a part of it, but the larger society of which it is a part.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

More cool Rob Paterson Work

Rob Patterson: Mallethands. On the wonder and challenges of new music composing, promoting, and performing. Note use of the viola as a solo instrument.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Abiogenesis for Dummies


With primitive organisms reproducing in hours if conditions are right, how long will it be before that low probability of a favorable mutation happens? Then if that favorable mutation works it becomes the dominant strain of the organism until a low probability event happens again and it loses out to the improved strain. It is not only chance, but chance and selection that drives evolution.

If you wish you can take the concept back to the
(With thanks to Miguel_de_servet for the image)
There were a bunch of organic compounds doing their thing, that is combining, folding, stapling, and mutilating. Most of them ended up in the recycle bin where they continued to combine, fold, staple and mutilate. Trillions of compounds in this dance the tempo of the dance depending on moisture and heat. (The source of the heat is not necessarily sunlight, ocean rift smokers in the deep dark sea are rife with life.)

Sooner or later, probably sooner if you think about it in evolutionary time of millennia one stable compound had a form that allowed it to copy itself. It didn't intend to, just that things stuck to it in an organized way that mirrored the stable compound. Then things began to stick to other places weakening the bonds that held the mirrored compound to its parent. It fell off. But like its parent it was stable and things stuck to it just like things were sticking to its parent. Both broke apart then there were 4 scrounging for things that would stick to the sticky places. If the soup was rich enough (Campbell was famous for rich soups) there would soon be 8 then 16, 32, 64 ... until it ran out of things to stick at 2n. Then its soup puddle flooded and more things to stick to the sticky places came to the puddle and some of the stable compounds were washed to new soup puddles. Campbell made a hell of a lot of soup.

Are Believers Happier


The division between believers and non-believers seems to be on the question of who takes responsibility for the lives of the individual. It seems that believers are happiest when they can assign moral and ethical and even spiritual authority to God. In this sense perhaps believers are happier than those who assume personal control over their mores and spirituality. There is less angst, and unhappiness can be assigned to God's will and ignored. And of course all is better in heaven so unhappiness need not be really dealt with.

I for one am ok with the concept of believers being happier, I just don't consider happiness to be an overriding value. I would certainly rather be happy than sad or upset, but being responsible for my own life sometimes means dealing with sad or upsetting things. And by my standards being human means being responsible.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Origins of Morality

Beliefnet -
--We *are* hard-wired for morality... while we can accurately describe the biology of how this occurs, in my mind it doesn't speak to where this moral compass originally comes from.

It doesn't come from anywhere, it evolved as an advantage in humans.
Rules in religion are just other types of social rules. That they are religious is just a different classification. Many religious leaders use the idea of an authority of god as a way to persuade believers that a moral idea is better than if it was proposed on its own merit.

Friday, September 16, 2011


From notes for a talk about the Bible and Homosexuality posted on Facebook by Meg Barnhouse. If you are not familiar with Meg you should be. She is one of the sanest, funniest, and most profound of the modern UU ministers. Just called as the permanent minister of the Austin TX church. If you are ever in Austin take an extra day to go to church.

If you know any GLBT Christians who still have concerns, this whole article should be required reading for you as a friend and for them as a necessity.

One of the Bible stories used to talk about homosexuality is the story of Sodom and Gomorra. Briefly, here is what happened. In Genesis 19, you’ll find the story of two angels visiting Abraham’s brother Lot at his house in Sodom. The men of Sodom gathered, demanding that Lot’s guests be turned over to them to be raped. In that time, rape was a tactic of war, a way to humiliate an enemy. In that region of the world still, hospitality is of the highest value. Lot could not have let his guests be hurt. He offered to give his two virgin daughters to the crowd, but the crowd tried to break down the door instead. The angels blinded the crowd and they couldn't find the door. To assume that homosexuality was the problem here is a gross leap made possible only by a void of cultural understanding.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Remembering HUAC

It seems that it is time to once again remind people why "Under God" replaced "indivisible" in the Pledge of Allegiance. Those too young to remember the Army McCarthy Hearings of HUAC courageously broadcast by ABC seem to think it is an affirmation of God not a repudiation of atheists or in the vernacular of the time pinko-commie-atheist bastards. They wonder why atheists even bother to protest this "innocuous" insertion into the Pledge. Just for the record it is a painful reminder of the McCarthy witch hunt which deprived many artists and other citizens of their livelihood and their good names.

Mr. SEEGER: I have sung for Americans of every political persuasion, and I am proud that I never refuse to sing to an audience, no matter what religion or color of their skin, or situation in life. I have sung in hobo jungles, and I have sung for the Rockefellers, and I am proud that I have never refused to sing for anybody. That is the only answer I can give along that line. From History Matters.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Moral Responsibility

Again ... "Religions" don't kill ... PEOPLE kill ...
... often in the name of god.

You are correct, religions don't kill people. Atheism doesn't kill people. People driven by ideology DO kill people. How humans manage their ideology is the crucial element. I'd suggest that ideologies that have irrational and unrealistic elements are more tempting. Religious ideologies have a built-in authority of god, and humans can use that "authority" to defer all sorts of moral accountability. Of course political authority can do the same thing for a person. The crux is a failure of personal and independent moral accountability. Any time a person has an ideology to absorb accountability the more tempting immorality can be.

This is why non-theism is an advantage to one's own moral sense: there is no ideology to justify moral ambiguity. The sole responsibility is on the self, and the self must account.

Sometimes a king or a priest or a despot finds it necessary to do things he wouldn't do as a person. This is the ultimate rejection of personal responsibility.
This is unfortunately a rejection of ones humanity as each human is ultimately responsible for everything hesh does. It cannot be laid off on a state, a God, or an ideal.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Atheist Pride

Other Supernatural Things
I'm proud to be atheist. To me, it's just another IQ test I've scored well on.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Experiencing Transcendence

An experience that is intensely moving is a natural reward system in the brain to impose certain patterns indelibly in the memory. Lets define these experiences as transcendental in the general non-religious sense. Music seems to be fundamental in this regard in some theories even preceding speech.

Such experiences are so fundamental to human experience that shamans, priests, pastors and poo-bahs do their level best to co-opt them to whatever it is they are selling, usually a god. I find any such co-option fundamentally degrading.

I will take my transcendent experiences straight. I might try to explain them in retrospect, using physics or music theory, or training but such explanations in no way subtract from the transcendence. I can explain a rainbow perfectly with optics and refraction. But being at the focus of all that beauty and color is a transcendent experience even though I know why it happens. But I can guarantee that I never have and never will think of a rainbow as Gods promise that he won't exterminate all life on earth ever again.

Is Politics Relevant to Anything?

Libertarian, Liberal, Trogloright - I have decided that politics at least in developed countries is irrelevant for the people who make the country and the world work. Politics is basically fooling most of the people most of the time which is not hard since most of the people want to be fooled most of the time. The people making things happen pay politicians to fool the people to keep them off their backs. Income inequality is always a problem, but notice that the people who make things happen realize it and will at least fix it politically and probably in actuality.

I always vote. If only to encourage the least awful. And write to and phone politicians doing the right thing for the same reason. I do not expect results.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Why Atheists Study Religion

Since I was a small child many of my good friends have spent significant portions of their life in the worship of and dependence on God. I was naturally curious about what drove this "waste" of time, and tried to discover the value in it. I came to some tentative conclusions, but none of them made sense in my life. It was in no sense a waste of time as I learned much about living from their religious views and my study of religious music. There is much to learn in myth and fiction, but it helps to be aware of the fact that it is myth and fiction.

It is probably true that I know more about most religions that I have studied than believers, as I can think about what they are saying without worrying about blasphemy or annoying God. So I can pick out the useful teachings and reject the useless ones.

It is very useful to read the New Testament without God or anti-God blinders on. There is much that is useful there and it is important to know the source of the dysfunctional values that drive much of the society I live with. I say with instead of in, as my ERSSG has very little commonality with the larger society. But it is valuable to know the drivers of the larger society to know how to deal with it.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Infinite Monkeys, Typewriters, and Shakespeare.

However it is a fact that a finite number of primates breeding with no target in mind, did produce the entire works of Shakespeare. Not with typewriters obviously, but with quill pens.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Afterlife Considerations

So What? - beliefnet

The probability of an afterlife is so low as to be a useless consideration in living. The chances of God mediating an afterlife are even lower. The chances of God's mediation of an afterlife based on religious choice are nil.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Jesus as theistic humanist.

Jesus as teacher. - beliefnet

Jesus was using the prevailing paradigm of God to teach, but the focus was on being a better human being to and for other humans. In other words you learn from God how to be a better human.

Radically different from the prevailing learn from the priests how to worship God for the sake of God and the priests. A caricature certainly, but not far from reality. Paul went back to this paradigm. Worship Christ for the sake of God and to save one's soul. No concern for the human at all and certainly not for humanity.

I am not talking about The Lord Jesus of Nazareth I am talking about the human preacher Jesus, who was using God to teach his fellow humans humanity. I suspect he believed in his personal relationship to God and believed that his mission from God was to teach what he taught.

All of which had nothing at all to do with what his followers and usurpers did to create The Lord Jesus of Nazareth which he frequently denied having anything at all to do with.

Certainly the radical theistic humanism of Jesus in the Synoptics before the passion has much to teach Christians and atheists alike. It is true some of the idealism is over the top, but none the less effective as an ideal if not a practical paradigm for living.

In some payoff scenarios turn the other cheek seems to be an extremely effective strategy in game theory known as tit-for two tats. Opponent defects once, cooperate. If opponent defects twice retaliate. Practically: If hesh smites the other cheek, kill herm.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Entire New Testament in 41 words

The existence of gods - beliefnet

Aug 16, 2011 -- 6:43PM, amcolph wrote:

Jesus preached a radical moral philosophy which scared the crap out of everybody so they strung him up, and Paul turned it all into a pagan magic trick. Everybody breathed a sigh of relief and went back to business as usual.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

University Communities

SSGS - beliefnet

As an atheist I of course think the university communities are a viable alternative to the religious SSGs. The fact that membership in a university is elected and the values are adopted as adult choices (with some infantile exceptions) is a powerful unifying force to replace God.

A university community is much more than the students, and the student's involvement does not end with graduation. Like runs with like, and even before Facebook, social groups were generally formed based on educational achievement, not necessarily a particular university. As an example in the SF Bay Area graduates of the three major universities, one religious, one private and one public tend to gravitate to the same events and form networks around them.

Some professors and other professional university staff may view their position as a job independent of the community with values derived elsewhere, but in my experience these are the exception rather than the rule. The non-professional staff tends to choose the university in part because of the campus values, and comply with them. The campus cops and bus drivers seem to have a different attitude from their off campus compatriots.

Even campus churches seem to have a different set of social values although God may still have an important role.

Experiencing God

Experiences - beliefnet

In my studies of the religion of my friends and neighbors I never made any secret of the fact that I was an atheist trying to find out more about their religious lives. They had no problems with my mirroring their devotions, as they knew I was doing so reverently.

In fact the closest I have ever come to experiencing God was in a community RCC with a good friend. We were nearly late for the service. Most were at their devotions in the pews. I mirrored my friend's genuflection knowing it was an acknowledgement of the presence of God. I could feel a presence like someone in the church with me that was not my friend. I did not have the background to associate any attributes to it, but whatever it was remained through the mass.

My post experience analysis was that the community had created a community consciousness that they identified as God. I could only feel the hem of the gown if you will as God attended to Herm duties with the parishioners as I was not a real part of the community to share in the consciousness.

I could discuss it with my friend and did so. My friend said "Of course you were touched by God. We all were." My friend wouldn't even consider the possibility that the community created God, and I didn't press the issue. God visited the community from wherever Hesh was when the devotions started. That was faith, and I know better than to argue with faith.

Experiencing God

No Gods - beliefnet

The difference is quite simple when I experience anything of the Earth even something spiritual in the atheist sense of being true, or beautiful before rationalization, the fact remains that it can be rationalized and explained to others. The others may not get the same sense of spiritual wonder, but they might at least from my description understand where my spiritual experience is coming from. If I explain that I seem to be at the focal point of a brightly colored arc in the sky most people will say "Oh you mean a rainbow" It may have been a mistbow or a moonbow, but I won't quibble. They know and perhaps appreciate from having a similar experience to the one I described what I am talking about.

Similarly with almost any earthbound experience. Many more years ago than I want to admit I was 16 and in the middle of my active God search. I came out of a dark side street late evening and was stunned by the sight of the flood lighted Florence Cathedral across the plaza. Stunned in the sense I could not move or even think. All I could do was gawk at the sight. Later I could explain to my sister what I had seen, and she noted how she also was stunned even though she was expecting it and indeed looking for it.

In any experience on the Earth I can communicate what I experienced in a way that someone else could uniquely identify the experience if not the wonder I experienced. It would seem that someone experiencing God should be able to describe the experience in such a way that at least a sympathetic listener could say "Oh, that was God." It may be too much to ask for a skeptical atheist to recognize it, but at least a believer in some sort of God should recognize the description.

That was an experience when I was literally knocking on God's door, and should have experienced God if God existed. That and similar experiences where I was actually presupposing God not No-God, and got no result.

Psalm 14:1

Atheist Inspiration - beliefnet

You have repeatedly throughout this thread stated there is no god. If you believe David speaks the truth where does this leave you?

As for the Psalm, a fool disguises herm ambiguities about God or gods and hides them inside. A wiser person knows exactly how they relate to God, gods, or some numinous all highest being and speaks it clearly, unambiguously, and right out loud. I will tell you clearly and unambiguously that there is no God, gods, or numinous all highest being that has anything at all to offer me. Therefore, whether there is a God, gods, or a numinous all highest being is of no importance.

Perhaps you could as unambiguously state your relationship with God, gods, or a numinous all highest being. At this point it is hard to avoid associating the Psalm with you.

My Creator

Define God -beliefnet

I have no problem understanding my creators. Countless generations of organisms survived to reproduce culminating in a group of intelligent creative survivor humans that were my ancestors and finally my parents. Both of whom I know and who helped me understand the society of which I am a part. End of creation story.

Ancient Religions in a Modern Society.

Knock on God's Door - beliefnet.

I don't see how a patriarchal, high maternal and infant mortality rate society can have any stories, myths or Gods that are relevant to a modern technological society where one conception equals one economically productive and reproductive adult of either gender.

Added to that is the problem for faith based religions that information is essentially a free good in today's society. Even the most repressed, burkaed, housebound female can access the internet to see how the rest of the world lives. It won't change many lives but it will change enough to create social networks that will change their world. Maybe even ours.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Atheist Spirituality

No Gods not a Presupposition - beliefnet

The difference is quite simple when I experience anything of the Earth even something spiritual in the atheist sense of being true, or beautiful before rationalization, the fact remains that it can be rationalized and explained to others. The others may not get the same sense of spiritual wonder, but they might at least from my description understand where my spiritual experience is coming from. If I explain that I seem to be at the focal point of a brightly colored arc in the sky most people will say "Oh you mean a rainbow" It may have been a mistbow or a moonbow, but I won't quibble. They know and perhaps appreciate from having a similar experience to the one I described what I am talking about.

Similarly with almost any earthbound experience. Many more years ago than I want to admit I was 16 and in the middle of my active God search. I came out of a dark side street late evening and was stunned by the sight of the flood lighted Florence Cathedral across the plaza. Stunned in the sense I could not move or even think. All I could do was gawk at the sight. Later I could explain to my sister what I had seen, and she noted how she also was stunned even though she was expecting it and indeed looking for it.

In any experience on the Earth I can communicate what I experienced in a way that someone else could uniquely identify the experience if not the wonder I experienced. It would seem that someone experiencing God should be able to describe the experience in such a way that at least a sympathetic listener could say "Oh, that was God." It may be too much to ask for a skeptical atheist to recognize it, but at least a believer in some sort of God should recognize the description.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Modern Mythology

Knock on God's Door

Probably because we have much more relevant modern mythologies that relate to the modern technological and rational world than Bronze Age desert marauder stories.

I don't see how a patriarchal, high maternal and infant mortality rate society can have any stories, myths or Gods that are relevant to a modern technological society where one conception equals one economically productive and reproductive adult of either gender.

Added to that is the problem for faith based religions that information is essentially a free good in today's society. Even the most repressed, burkaed, housebound female can access the internet to see how the rest of the world lives. It won't change many lives but it will change enough to create social networks that will change their world. Maybe even ours.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A World without Borders

Is Theism Simply Fear Of Facing Reality? - beliefnet

I like to imagine a world without borders, without local goverments or political parties , without different religions or beliefs and where equality is not and empty word but a reality, where diversity is respected and appreciated for its contribution to enrich cultures, and where nationalities are not seen as a threat because there will be only one, Earth citizenship.
This world is closer than you think. It is a world-wide coalition of educated intelligent people leading the world into a gender, skin color, nationality neutral rational meritocracy. It is being lead by the secular Chinese, abetted by secular Americans, Europeans, Indians, Australians and several other secular parts of the world. I say secular, as most religions discourage the rational education required to be a part of this coalition especially for women who are the natural leaders in this coalition.

Unfortunately it won't be for everybody. Religious and political leaders will opt as many people out of it as they can to maintain their control. In the US the politico-religious axis will opt most of the country out of this revolution. This is the reality that religions are seeking to avoid. Or looking at it crassly, religions are using to sell the big rock candy mountain in the next life, to substitute for the reality in this life that they cannot deliver.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

On Atheism

Comment on Philosophy Talk
Atheism is not a definition of anybody's life. Atheism is simply an answer to "Do you believe?" or "Are you saved?"
Atheists get their meaning, purpose, morals and ethics the same place God does. From the tribe they belong to. Modern tribes are more diffused and amorphous than traditional tribes, but we know who we are.
The afterlife is a con game that has no meaning for most atheists, even a theist like Forrest Church recognizes that the best we can do is live a life worth dying for. After that, who knows, and who cares. Any afterlife mediator that doesn't look at that life that was worth dying for isn't worth worrying about.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Existential Issues in Belief

Beliefnet - Religion and Mind

It is the belief not the existence of the referent that causes all the problems. A person believing in the reality of John Galt as a living, historical person, is not going change herm behavior if you can prove that Galt never existed outside of the pages of Atlas Shrugged. Better to attack the belief itself as dysfunctional than waste time attacking the referent.

Perhaps wisdom is being able to learn values for living independent of the existential reality of the originator of those values. I think I have learned many useful values, and rejected as many as useless from Jesus whether or not he ever existed as per the stories told about him. I can say the same about Lazarus Long who certainly never existed. Why is the existence of either an issue.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

ERSSG Houskeeping

(I was just visiting my daughter, son in law, grandson and brand new grandson. My daughter and son in law are pigs. They never met a closet door they wanted to shut or a bed they wanted to make. It would drive me nuts--but it is their home, they are great parents, and if I need to wash my feet before I go to bed, it isn't that big of a deal...)

It seems to be a trend. Parents who share parenting and have high level jobs, something has to give. Appearances are less important in their lives. Also part of the deal in removing the contraceptive is that the other partner usually a man is going to do more than his share of the housework. Men in general are not socialized as children to be OCD about neatness, closed closet doors, made beds, dusting etc. As long as the floor is vacuumed once or twice a month, there are clean clothes in the drawers, there is food on the counter when it is his turn, and the dishwasher gets
run so there are clean dishes to put the food in, what's the problem?

Friday, June 24, 2011


If you treat meaning as a quest you will never discover it. The meaning of life is apparent to anyone who lives intentionally and rationally. I should probably add realistically with respect to life's finite duration. It is not provided by God or anyone else. This is not to say a theist cannot discover meaning in life, but as a quest to find what God intends is a open invitation to the con artists who are happy to satisfy that quest.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Biology of Ethics

The Biology of Ethics - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education: "Churchland, professor emerita of philosophy at the University of California at San Diego, has been best known for her work on the nature of consciousness. But now, with a new book, Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us About Morality (Princeton University Press), she is taking her perspective into fresh terrain: ethics. And the story she tells about morality is, as you'd expect, heavily biological, emphasizing the role of the peptide oxytocin, as well as related neurochemicals.

Oxytocin's primary purpose appears to be in solidifying the bond between mother and infant, but Churchland argues—drawing on the work of biologists—that there are significant spillover effects: Bonds of empathy lubricated by oxytocin expand to include, first, more distant kin and then other members of one's in-group. (Another neurochemical, aregenine vasopressin, plays a related role, as do endogenous opiates, which reinforce the appeal of cooperation by making it feel good.)"

Facing Death

Is Theism Simply ... The Fear of Facing Reality? - Beliefnet

I suspect you will find that for those of us who accept the permanence of death anything, even God, is a distraction we cannot afford. I am too busy living each day as if it were the last, doing what I can to make this space I live in more inviting and user friendly for those who will inherit it I can't say I fear death. I plan as if it will never come, although I know it will. There will be, as my late mother bequeathed to me, 'Things I haven't finished' but I will have done what I can undistracted by planning for the unknown.

I have found that all God concepts are so encrusted with the barnacles of a violent and hateful past that it is better to rediscover human values that underlie the religious dogma. Humans evolved as tribes, and once we got beyond a face group tribe things began to fall apart, imperfectly glued back together with God and religions. I find it useful to go back to the tribal mores: be nice to those in the tribe, help all the children in the tribe grow to useful intelligent adults, and make the tribal space a better place for the whole tribe. I try to generalize that to the large and amorphous tribe I consider to be my Social Support Group, that is, people who have the same values and mores that I do.

Friday, June 10, 2011

No Afterlife?

Is Theism Simply ... The Fear of Facing Reality? - Beliefnet

No afterlife at all. When I die, nothing remains but a few ashes. If I have done my job in this life I will have affected a lot of people who will either grow with it and affect others, or not. In either case I neither know nor care after death. I do however, know and care now and that affects the way I will conduct whatever life is left to me. And has affected the way I have conducted my life up to this point. I have seen people I affected grow to greatness. I am content.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Atheist Values

Differences in outlook - Discuss Atheism - Beliefnet Community

Most non-believers I know are interested in social values and the direction of human evolution, neither of which is bounded or delimited. Much of the thinking in this area is found in fiction, that most do not recognize as atheist until you realize that nothing in the fiction depends on God. Steinbeck for example superficially uses religious themes in East of Eden but it is one of the most profoundly humanist books I have ever read and reread frequently I might add. Similarly for Grapes of Wrath. None of the major characters can or do get any help or guidance from God in their attempt to create a livable society for the propertyless. Douglas Adams, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Pournelle-Niven are all working out the ramifications of social structures without God. Ostensibly telling fictional stories about the future, they are dealing with real situations that exist in societies today, and working them out without the help of God. And not incidentally showing how such societies can work quite well in many cases.

The other, much more difficult source of information about atheists working out the problems of living is to observe the lives of graduates of the top universities. Very few get their direction or inspiration from God in working out the messy and unbounded problems of making a contribution to their society through their work, perhaps in business, but frequently in a non-profit, the arts, or academia, living and raising families that will carry their values and aspirations forward. Most are too busy to blog, but an interesting source that many depend on is peers in the social networks on line. Almost always simply links to interesting idea sources, but once a trusted atheist acquires a following others feed links that are reposted for those interested. This source is obviously quite new. And used by Churches effectively to promote religion, but the secular world is using it effectively as well.

I am not sure how any of this might help us find common ground, as it appears to me that God solutions are necessarily static and conservative, and the atheist solutions fluid and nebulous. Uncertainty is part and parcel of an atheist life, as the only certainty is death. Living in a way to justify having lived is an important issue for most atheists. God won't help.

Atheist Lfe Stages.

Is Theism Simply Born And Persist Due To The Fear of Facing Reality? - Discuss Atheism - Beliefnet Community

I also think that after the age of fifty or so we should gradually become disenchanted with life so as to ease more gracefully into our departure from it.

If I may respectfully offer an alternative for an atheist. As a youth with a lifetime ahead one has plenty of life to waste even if one is vaguely aware that death is somewhere ahead and final. So one wastes it discovering what is of transient value and what might be of more value to self and society. In midlife one is so busy with creating value for self, family and society that thoughts of the end of life seldom intrude. After the creative torch is passed to children and/or the creative successors at work, 50 is as good an age as any, that the end of life becomes apparant and one reflects on the contributions one has made, and what still is left to be done to help those carrying on the legacy. Telling stories about life lessons learned is a common solution, either live if one is fortunate enough to have the successors nearby, or in writing if not. Self published books that may have surprising impact far beyond their intended audience of friends and family, or which languish on shelves. The value is in the creation, not the result.

I know of one atheist who is struggling to stay alive to finish volume IV of an immigrant's life story that is resonating with another immigrant from a different country in a different era. Worthless? Easing into death? I think not. But the pressure of impending death is powerful, and the work left to be done is reason enough not to go quietly into the night.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

On a Life Worth Dying For.

Is Theism Simply Born And Persist Due To The Fear of Facing Reality? - Beliefnet

Accepting the reality and finality of death, does not lead at all to fear of dying today or any day. When the time comes that the mind and body cannot maintain their integrity they will cease to function. In the mean time there are many things that a person needs to do to affect the society of which hesh is a part to make that society more human friendly. Some of those things will have lasting effects, some perhaps will have none, but all are important reasons for living today, and as long as one can affect others in the society.

Death might well be described as a condition when affecting others is no longer possible. It is nothing to fear, if one has affected others properly they will carry on the task of making society a better place for humans, and life in the larger sense goes on, even though the no longer useful individual is not a part of it.

Today I can see people I have affected taking the society to places I cannot conceive, but which I approve of. Whether I die today or some day in the future I am content. But I am not finished affecting others in my society. So until the time comes when I can no longer do so I will continue to live my life so that it is worth dying for. Thanks, Forrest Church.

Monday, June 6, 2011

the unfulfilled dream : the unfulfilled dream

Note the linked article is necessary background.

As long as UU does not define a belief statement it will remain a social club that meets on Sunday.

UU's seem to fear any statement containing God as offensive to us atheists, but Forrest Church's Cathedral even had windows for atheists. In that Cathedral atheists could worship meaningfully with their theist friends. The humanist God of Jesus (Matt 22:37-40) who loves all Herm neighbors is perfectly acceptable to most atheists. They won't believe, but as a unifying principle with their theist friends God can work as an avatar if not a deity.

As a side benefit you will probably attract a lot of Christians who are fed up with Paul's trinity and have refocused their theology on the Synoptics and Matt 22:37-40 in particular.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Education Common Privatized.

Blogger: Free and Responsible Search - Post a Comment:

The common that is being stolen today is the right of every child to the education hesh needs to claim herm place at the workbench of ideas. Good public education has become the property of those that can afford the homes in the few good school districts and vote for the local taxes that support them. With some charity to a few who can make the trek and get in.

This is the modern stake that was once given to anyone that chose to pay attention in school. It is now denied to most.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Random Thoughts from The Believing Brain.

I have just started The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer. This post is a collection of quotes and reactions not to be taken too seriously. It is definitely not a review, and should not be quoted as such.
"The brain is a belief engine.
Beliefs come first, explanations for beliefs follow: Belief-dependent realism." p5
Pattern seeking certainly, but a belief engine? I think not.
"Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for nonsmart reasons." p36
Certainly true for many smart people that are not trained to be skeptical about beliefs in general. There may in fact be two types of people, believers and for lack of a better term philosophical non-believers. Or in Heinlein's terms learners.
I have no beliefs. Belief gets in the way of learning. Lazarus Long Time Enough For Love, Robert A Heinlein, 1973 p20.
Chapter 3 The journey of a believer from nowhere to religion to fundie skepticism. The will to believe will not be denied. I hope he does more with his thinking up to the conversion in 12th grade.
Chapter 4 Patternicity
People believe weird things because of an evolved need to believe unweird things. p62
He is assuming that there is no evolutionary pressure to sort out the weird things from the unwierd, since the cost of believing in weird things is assumed to be zero. This may be true for the evolutionary scenario for individuals, the theory being that there is no cost for being skittish of wind in the grass compared with the cost of a lion in the grass. But in a sense this is a Pascal Wager argument. If one shies at every odd movement, one will never get the hunting or gathering done. There must be a BS detector built into the belief system even at the primitive level.
The rest of the chapter is a series of experiments in pattern seeking in uncertain situations. In the Ono experiments the subjects were in effect told to find patterns. "If you do something you will get points on the counter." The Catania and Cutts experiment also created the impression of pattern possibility. Encouraging pattern seeking behavior involving the two buttons.
Chapter 5 Agenticity.
Typical of a skeptic believer Shermer picks extreme examples to mask the underlying reality of the natural duality of the human mind. As if you have to be in extreme conditions to be aware of the inner control segment of the mind. True most of us don't hallucinate doubles or OBEs or God for that matter, but the society imprints the necessary and life maintaining control mechanisms on the subconscious mind that we seldom are aware of. Including the necessary social controls necessary for getting along with "our people." It also takes care of the extreme staying alive situations by essentially shutting down the vaunted rational cortical control and going back to the basics of breathing and putting one foot in front of the other.

He includes the obligatory skeptical look at some of the weirder manifestations of this duality. Sort of like the cartoon ex-drunk sweeping the drinks off the bar. Too much time spent on paranormal psychic garbage, which are God substitute ways of staying in contact with and attempting to manage the inner control mechanism.
It was just one of many readings [of conversations with the dead] (at ninety dollars a pop) conducted [by one of the gurus for the psychic crowd.]
The position of shaman... is lovely work, if you can stomach it. Lazarus Long.

Chapter 6 Part 1. The neurological argument for the mind. He starts by demolishing a straw man argument of a mental force argument for the mind, weak argument weak rebuttal. The description of the working of neurons is detailed, and informative, about the right mix of science and gee whiz for the educated layperson who is the presumed target for the book. The discussion of dopamine as the belief mediator it detailed and persuasive. I am skeptical of experimental protocols using groups of skeptics and believers as subjects, as the skeptics seem to be believers in skepticism, that is ESP and the paranormal is crap. As a true non-believer, I wonder if some of the pattern finding activities might show different results for those with a finely honed pattern finding facility with an excellent BS detector as well. Apparently more to come on this issue. A nice few pages on patternivity, creativity and madness. Using 3 Nobel prize winners Feinman of A bomb fame, Mullis of Polymerase Chain Reaction fame, and Nash whose game theory equilibrium is certifiably crazy. Feinman sane and creative Nash Schizophrenic and creative and Mullis somewhere in the middle, a definite believer in weird things, but somehow able to sort out the weirdness useful enough for a Nobel. I am not convinced that the craziness is not in the eye of the beholder, Shermer in this case.
Chapter 6b Good discussion of mind-brain that makes me wonder about whether all monists are believers in the sense of either the mind belongs to God or it belongs to me as actions of the brain. Quot\ing Paul Bloom: "We are natural born dualists." He then goes on to defend monism as an unnatural state of affairs, which I find involved belief. He then goes on to explain the Theory of Mind (TOM) which is the way we think about how we think and how others think. Tying it all together with agency, mirror neurons, and story creation. According to Sam Harris experiment on 14 subjects some "believers" some not. We perceive all things as true and evaluation of falsity is a separate function. Even religious statements for believers and non alike p135-7 I wonder if any "real" non-believers, (acreds) that is non-believers unrelated to religious beliefs were a part of the experiment. I would be curious to see the raw data and see if there was an "anomalous" result that was thrown out. Probably not as I find acreds to be a very small segment of even the secular and especially the skeptic population.
P143-4 Making a lot of stew from the oyster of the Harris poll. Where are the unbelievers in the dthe 6 pretty well cover the waterfront. ata? Ok for believers in afterlife he gives some plausible reasons. Pick one and you can explain anything.

148-50 way too much attention and debunking given to ESP theory of the afterlife. To be expected from a believing skeptic. Lots of what is the mechanism and reliance on the data protocols of esp skeptics. Look for esp under the streetlight of heavy emotional content: Lovers and musicians and dancers.
P152-6 Long discussion of NDEs and drug induced OBEs which he as expected confirm his belief in monism.
It may be true that the brain is 9integral with the mind, but as I read the data a natural dualism explains things better.

Amusing but basically useless CNN panel including all of the usual suspects Depak Chopra, Sanjay Gupta, and a few NDE survivors and reincarnations for color. I won’t watch the replay.

The wrap up of the chapter is the counter argument that lack of afterlife simply makes this life important. As I use it all the time myself in almost the same words he has to be right.

It is nice to see that believers and acreds can come to the same conclusions occasionally.
P171 In his discussion of VMAT2 gene which seems to give 'Self forgetfulness' and "transpersonal identification" and "mysticism". The link to nicotine addiction seems plausible to me, absent other influences which was the basis for the study, the link to God p172 seems like a leap of faith. It would seem that eg Mormon eschewing of nicotine, caffeine, and other addictive substances, would lead to the opposite conclusion that VMAT2 would lead away from God belief to self actualization.
p 170 the link of DRD4 to risk seeking behavior seems unrelated to God belief to me, not sure what Shermer is trying to get to here. It would seem that risk aversion is more closely related to God beliefs, and therefore low DRD4=high dopamine fix naturally would lead to no risk belief in God.

I wonder about this psychobabble self-transcendence. "Becoming totally absorbed in an activity, feeling connected to the larger world, and an unwillingness to disbelieve in unfashionable things like ESP (my restatement of the last) sounds like simple rational intelligence to me not spirituality. Dopamine makes you feel good about the way you look at the world. If you look at it without beliefs or prejudices, and concentrate on things that make the larger world a better place of course you will get a dopamine high. Any relationship to God beliefs is clearly Shermers belief in a believing brain.

pp172-184 Conventional skeptical analysis of God belief as created by humans to fill a God hole in their brain. Certainly true for a large portion of the population who will disagree with the human creation part and assert a Creator.

p186 "It is time to step out of our evolutionary heritage and our historical traditions and embrace science as the best tool ever devised for explaining how the world works. It is time to work together to create a social and political world that embraces moral principles [Whose?]and yet allows natural human diversity to floursh." "Religion cannot ...." Although he denies it typical liberal skeptic BS.

Chapter 9. Conventional skeptical look at the alien as replacement for God. Now that religion has lost its elevated position. He uses it to buttress his premise that the belief comes first and justification later. It works just fine.

Chapter 10. Standard debunking of conspiracy theories focusing on 9/11. Not enough focus on why conspiracy theorists think the way they do.

Chapt 11 Politics. He begins with Jost's Meta-study of conservatives linking conservatism to psychological management of uncertainty and fear. I am less comfortable with the endorsement of inequality. Haight points out the group binding and support of essential institutions as part of the conservative pattern. He Lakoffalso mentions the Political Mind, Lakoff and The Political Brain, Weston p234 with the liberal trope (This God forbid) rationality, intelligence, & optimism. This conflicts with Shermer's belief bias toward Libertarianism. He confirms this by the association of university profs with liberalism. Duh they all are smart, flexible and rational enough to get a PhD. [Also at least in my experience they have left behind their religious beliefs if they ever had any. The selection process is reinforced by the conservative religious bias against education.] Interesting factoid, USA Today is the most centrist media. Probably due to its primary market in the hotel and travel areas where money talks and the well off are either liberal or successful conservatives generally at least well educated.

He then conflates p237-40 belief based morality with politics using Haight and Graham's 5 innate and universal moral parameters. 1. Harm/Care. 2. Fairness/Reciprocity. 3. In-Group/Loyalty. 4. Authority/Respect. 5. Purity/sanctity.

P 240 "Liberals question authority, celebrate diversity, and often flaunt(sic) faith and tradition in order to care for the weak and oppressed" ?????

"Religion and Government are the two systems for social control and watchdogs" to control the free riders. Shrmer then wastes a few pages with different studies using different words to confirm his belief that liberals weight H/C, F/R higher than G/L A/R & P/S with conservatives the opposite.

He then spends several pages setting up the justification for his Libertarian BS. (Which according to the thesis of the book came first.)

Chapter 12 101 ways our brains fool us into thinking we are right. He starts with one of my favorites post hoc odds. "A talk show you will never see: Our guest has had several dreams about the death of prominent people none of which have happened. Stay tuned maybe the next one will be confirmed" p260-1 describes a delightful experiment in which 15 Dems and 15 GOPs were wired up and presented statements by Bush and Kerry in which they contradicted themselves. The cognitive areas of the brain were out of the circuit, the emotional areas and conflict resolution areas were hot and everybody got a dopamine fix when their candidate was right.
He goes on to describe all the usual suspects Hindsight bias and self justification bias getting prominent attention, along with a host of other biases people use to avoid thinking about what they are observing.
The obligatory debunking of ESP. [not convincing] but a good discussion of the return to the mean fallacy. The SI Cover jinx is simply back to normal for the athlete after a flurry of good stuff that made the cover. Extraordinary things happen given enough time and attention. It is important to recognize they are just that: things on the tails of the bell curve.

I get the impression that in Chapter 13 Shermer is trying to justify his belief comes first in the face of the fact that the inductive paradigm of science has the potential to put the data before the belief in spite of our inherent tendency in his thesis of belief first. He properly points out that in Terra Incognata the absence of belief is liberating, and frees science to create de novo theories, unclouded by belief. But he seems a bit uncomfortable with this conclusion and points to belief based interpretations of data by Columbus and even Galileo in his interpretation of the Saturn data. It seems he is fighting a confirmation bias of his own Belief first belief. Which is threatened by the Scientific Method. He claims to be examining this in the final chapters. We shall see.

Chapt 14a Even astronomers can be victims of confirmation bias, but eventually science prevails, as a lead in to the orgins question.
Chapt 14b. Apparently an extended confirmation bias of Goddidntdoit. Shermer presents a bunch of origin of the universe theories as if they have more value than Goddidit. He messes around with the theist argument of the cosmological constants being just right for our existence as if there needs to be an explanation. Or as if no explanation is conceding the Goddidit argument. Amusing speculations to be sure as a confirmation bias that Goddidntdoit. But what is wrong with the universe exists, I exist, it all works. The only reasonable answer to why? is don't know, don't care.

From Beliefnet:"Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons."

—Micheal Shermer--"

In his most recent book The Believing Mind, Times Books, 2011 Shermer makes a strong case that the human brain is necessarily a belief engine. His case is that pattern seeking and assigning agency to the patterns is a survival trait built in to the brain. His claim is that we believe first and think about it later, if ever.

In my experience this is as true of atheists and skeptics (including Shermer) as it is for religious believers. As many will testify dragging a belief say about UFOs out and trying to ask whether the belief is justified or not is extremely difficult for most people. Whether you are for 'em or ag'in 'em can you really decide you just don't know? My experience is that most people can't on any belief based subject which is to say, if Shermer is right, all subjects. It as if "I just don't know" just doesn't have a home in the human brain. "That's right!" has many homes OFC and ACC and lots of reward mechanisms in the ventral striatum in the brain. P 260. This makes a lot of sense, in the modern world "I don't know" gets in the way of many necessary decisions. Which stock to buy, which way to bet on a business decision, etc, as they say, it is better to go with the gut, i.e. the belief systems in the brain, and just do it.

I of course can't speak for Shermer but one of the reasons I enjoyed the book is that he makes a hard scientific case, that is materialistic and rational, for woo-woo. Maybe I am belief disabled, or I had the wrong upbringing and went to the wrong school, but I have never been able to understand how extremely intelligent and rational people can believe weird things. I think I understand it better now, but I am still an outsider looking in.

Whew, finally done. Formal review on Thinking on the Blue Roads

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Get Your NBA Cheerleader Out of My Kid’s School

Facebook: "Remington Stone via Susie Rodriguez
Get Your NBA Cheerleader Out of My Kid’s School
Don’t try and tell me that I’m being uptight, or ashamed of the human form, or discriminating against women. What I’m doing is raising the bar, and demanding more. I refuse to settle for the patronizing, sexualized options offered to my daughter.

Tara Dresbach That's an interesting article. On the one hand, there is a push to get cheerleading to be considered a sport in it its own right. On the other hand, a visit from a pro sports team's cheerleading squad doesn't feel quite right.

J'Carlin While it may be true that sports/religious fanatics that dehumanize women should not be permitted to exist in a reasonable world, they do and there is nothing we can do about it. They outnumber us. As long as women of all ages are indoctrinated into being sex objects, what does it gain to prevent them from doing it as well as they can?

J'Carlin Reality check. What do you think of a ballerina?

Suzi Anvin carlin - have you ever LOOKED at a ballerina? I fear gay men are more likely to be attracted to the long, lank, smooth form than straight ones :-P OMG the muscles...

Suzi Anvin
question for you all.... OK would you consider it weird if male pro sports teams visited a high school to talk to promote athletes of their sport? or is it just cuz its cheerleaders? Double standard cuts both ways, both in the sexualizing, AND in the rampant DAMNING of the sexualizing that this response blatantly plays right into. "You have to be sexy but its WRONG BAD WRONG" is not the message we should be reinforcing. You really, truly, will NOT stop the first as long as teens have hormones, so reinforcing the second is really NOT helping...

Suzi Anvin that's their professional uniforms. Would you expect Olympic swimmers to not wear their speedos ever at a school?

Suzi Anvin what you're saying is 'oh, ew, cover up the form, its bad bad bad to be that sexy' the double standard is a real bitch to fight, exactly because it is a DOUBLE standard. its very hard to fight both halves at the same time.

Susie Rodriguez
This is not a case of athletes. There are cheerleaders who are athletes and these aren't them. These are essentially exotic dancers. If you read the article, toward the bottom is a side by side pair of photos that illustrate the difference nicely. That this is what they wear to work does not automatically make it appropriate to display to small children in school. The kid whose mom brought this up? He was six. This isn't about teen sexuality, this is about small children having adult sexuality flaunted at them at a public school.

Tara Dresbach For me, it's the pro without context or prior knowledge. Also, if it somehow could have been a competitive cheerleading team that wasn't attached to to a pro sports franchise I would have felt better about it.

Lori L Foster A pro sports cheerleader is no more an athlete than a college athlete is a student. Their skills in those areas are irrelevant. As to the ballerina question: I've known a lot of (straight) men, and I never once heard one say of a ballerina, 'She's hot!' nor have I heard one praise the grace and skill of an NFL cheerleader.

Remington Stone The issue isn't even their professional uniforms, Suzi. Check the picture of the poster the kid brought home halfway down. That's a lot closer to underwear, to my eye.

Remington Stone On the other hand, don't even -say- gay in school. But highly heterosexualized mascots are all right?

Kathleen Gabriel
Did you look at the poster that the first-grade boy was given? It was a bunch of grown women looking sexy and pulling at their clothes to display their boobs better. If my (fictional) first-grade daughter was visited by grown men who gave her a similar poster of those men looking all sexy and pulling at their shorts to give more attention to their junk, yeah, I'd be pretty pissed off.

It's not so much about the fact of cheerleading, but of marketing to elementary school kids in a sexual context.

J'Carlin ‎@Suzi Re Ballet. Ballet is acknowledged to be the most demanding of sports but it is a celebration both of the human body and sensuality. If you appreciate an athletic body over boobs and cut pecs, ballet is the ultimate for any gender preference, on both sides of the pas de deux I might add.

J'Carlin @Suzi Re ? As noted different strokes for different folks. I find pseudo-warriors as bad as the cheerleaders. I would hope society has moved beyond this view of males and females. But as long as it is being celebrated by many groups the damning for control is necessary. Otherwise you are going to have a bunch of pregnant cheerleaders after every season.

Jack Pryne ‎@Suzi- I cannot possibly express to you in words how appealing the right ballerina is.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Memes in Evolution.

Is This Life All There Is?. - Beliefnet

While for 3.5 billion years, reproduction has been key and is still important in evolution, in the last 10,000 years of so Homo Sap has thrown an incredible wild card into the picture in the form of memes. Suddenly that moral element has become one of the most important determinants of survival for life on earth. The 'moral' failing of not getting along with the dominant humans is detrimental for survival as a species and as an individual I might add.

The human species is no exception. Morality, that is compliance with the mores of the tribe whatever that tribe is, is critical not only to survival as an individual but survival for the memes that might become part of the culture of the tribe. In a real sense the tribal memes are the modern mechanism of human evolution. The meme of divine right king led tribes is effectively dead, although the despot led tribal meme is unfortunately alive and well.

I suspect that in the lifetime of my grandchildren the religion meme will have disappeared, and certainly the trip-omni God gene associated with many religions. Out breeding resources is always a fatal mistake, although the death throes of that meme suicide are always ugly.

Meaning, Purpose and the Afterlife

Is This Life All There Is?. - Beliefnet

the meaning will vanish. the very moment the person dies. it will be as if they had never been on this earth because:

Ain't no because. This is just flat wrong morally, factually, spiritually, and in the words of Fler0002

It sounds] like a plan that not only creates fears of what happens after death, but also creates in humanity fears of each other. Fears of any tolerance for anything other than what is sanctified by the church. Fears that turn into hatreds. Fears that turn into witch hunts. Fears that turn into jihads, crusades, and terrorism.

1. they will have no awareness of having been on earth.

They will have been acutely aware of living, knowing each day that they are making differences in the lives of others. Major or minor, each difference reinforces their membership in that great and dominant species of humanity, which exists for the purpose of making a difference in the lives of other humans and indeed many other species on the planet. <

2. all people who ever knew them will eventually depart earth, leaving no one behind to 'speak good things about them.'

So what? Those people if they did their job as a human being well and influenced them properly and effectively will have continued their Legacy and built on all that is worth while in that legacy. They don't need to be remembered by name although some will be. But 'There is no limit to what you can accomplish if it doesn't matter who gets the credit.' Ralph Waldo Emerson, d. April 27, 1882. I am relatively certain that he did not consider this quote one of his major contributions to humanity. In fact it was buried until Truman resurrected it, or reinvented it. But please note that all the people who knew Emerson are now departed from the earth. But others who never knew him are still speaking good things about him.

meaning... getting up and going to work, does exist, albeit temporarily. so long as one does NOT contemplate purpose, ie why do I / everything exist.

the moment one assigns zero value to purpose, they run the risk of waking up to the fact that any answer they may have assigned to meaning...becomes worthless in the end.

Only a theist can assign zero value to purpose. If purpose comes from a non-existent or at least numinous and indefinable God it is no surprise believers assign zero value to the purpose of being human.

My purpose in life is far from zero. It is to make as much difference in the lives of other humans and others dependent on humans as possible. I am extremely careful to insure that the differences I am making are good for the individual and for the society of which I am a part. I may not always succeed, but I can normally repair the damage, and part of my purpose as a human is to do whatever it takes to do so.

and many people spend hurrendous amounts of energy trying NOT to have to admit this to themselves out of fear there is no value to anything.

They are called believers in the afterlife.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What is Meaning?

Is This Life All There Is?. - Beliefnet

I have never been able to figure out what 'Meaning in Life' means to a Christian although it seems to be some desirable mystical attribute provided by God. One of those undefined 'Good things' that comes from God. Perhaps one of our Christian visitors can help.

I have appropriated the term, to describe those things that I do each day that make life better for those that are important to me including myself. Random acts of kindness, paying attention to a particularly nice piece of music on the stream in the background and commenting on it if appropriate to another who might appreciate it or to the performer if it was a live performance. Simply sharing the things big and little that make life worth getting out of bed for each morning for.

Meaning is not provided by anyone or anything, but is created by living intentionally with conscious intent to improve the overall welfare of whatever one considers to be one's tribe or Social Support Group. The importance of any specific act does not determine or create meaning, a simple 'Good job' to a deserving friend is essentially equivalent to an earthshaking policy speech. We can't expect all acts to be earthshakers, but we all can make life better for those around us. Therein lies meaning in life.