Archive for the ‘atheism’ Category

Funny or Die : Darwin

Posted: May 25, 2010 in atheism, comedy

Loved it!


Atheist Blogroll

Posted: May 10, 2010 in atheism

Pinoy-Korean Atheist has been added to The Atheist Blogroll. You can see the blogroll in my sidebar. The Atheist blogroll is a community building service provided free of charge to Atheist bloggers from around the world. If you would like to join, visit Mojoey at Deep Thoughts for more information.

I’m almost back to where I started. All’s good! Now I can just scroll and look around for some no nonsense reading. Good times!

I still have to write my thoughts on this one but got distracted and instead wrote something about Steven Pinker’s 2008 article on “The Moral Instinct“.

Here’s the video for now:

I am a big fan of Stephen Fry. He’s eloquent, very intelligent and has a very, very lovely voice.

I could watch him over and over here and learn again and again. Sounds stupid, I know -redundant…Can’t help it!

Watch or just read the transcripts.

Steven Pinker is a Harvard Professor who’s also an evolutionary psychologist, cognitive scientist and a linguist.  (Hmm, all that I want to become…)

In his July 2008 article on The New York Times entitled “The Moral Instinct”, he started with asking the readers who the most admirable is: Mother Teresa, Bill Gates, or Norman Borlaug. My first instinct was to say, of course it’s not Mother Teresa because psychologists are tricky.  Normal people would conclude otherwise. It’s an easy question. Mother Teresa was ranked as one of  the most admired person in the 20th century, even got a Nobel Peace Prize therefore the best among the three.

But then here’s his “rethink your answers” reply:

Norman Borlaug used agricultural science to reduce world hunger and has been credited with saving billions of lives more than anyone else.

Bill Gates is using his fortune with a foundation to help fight malaria, diarrhea and parasites and alleviating poverty.

Mother Teresa extolled the virtue of suffering, ran well-financed missions while the sick patrons were offered plenty of prayers under harsh conditions, few meds and primitive health care.

You could still argue that Mother Teresa is the most admirable because she was often photographed with the poorest of the poor, suffering with them, etc while Bill Gates is the world’s richest man and Norman Borlaug spent his time invisible from the world.

(As I am writing this, I can’t help but think of Christopher Hitchens whose book “The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice” discusses how the nun is not a friend of the poor but rather a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction. According to the book, she opened 500 convents in more than a hundred countries under her name which then begs the question: Is it modesty and humility to do so?).

Going back to the topic, Pinker says there are hallmarks of moralization namely:

1. The rules it invoke are felt to be universal. You can say “I don’t like brussels sprouts but I don’t care if you eat them” but you can’t say “I don’t like killing but I don’t care if you murder someone”.

2. People feel that those who commit immoral acts deserve to be punished.  Not only is it allowable to inflict pain on those who broke the moral rule; it is wrong not to.

He then gives examples of how moralization has changed. For example, smoking, how it was okay then but immoral now (because of its secondhand smoke effect) and how divorce, illegitimacy, homosexuality etc have been amoralized.

The next part of the article that I find interesting is the “Reasoning and Rationalization” part.  He says that according to the experiments conducted by psychologist Jonathan Haidt (he’s next on my reading list), people don’t generally engage in moral reasoning but rather in moral rationalization. They begin with the conclusion, coughed up by an excuse of an unconscious emotion, and then work backward to a plausible justification. Imagine his example for this one:

Julie is traveling in France on summer vacation from college with her brother Mark. One night they decide that it would be interesting and fun if they tried making love. Julie was already taking birth-control pills, but Mark uses a condom, too, just to be safe. They both enjoy the sex but decide not to do it again. They keep the night as a special secret, which makes them feel closer to each other. What do you think about that — was it O.K. for them to make love?

Most people immediately declare that this act is wrong and then grope to justify why it is wrong. It’s not so easy. In the case of Julie and Mark, people raise the possibility of children with birth defects, but they are reminded that the couple were diligent about contraception. They suggest that the siblings will be emotionally hurt, but the story makes it clear that they weren’t. They submit that the act would offend the community, but then recall that it was kept a secret. Eventually many people admit, “I don’t know, I can’t explain it, I just know it’s wrong.”

Interesting point huh? How many times have you heard people say that line? “I can’t explain it, I just know it’s wrong”.

He goes on to suggest that the idea of moral sense as being innate part of human nature. This isn’t the first time I’ve read about the topic. Marc Hauser in his book (my favorite) “The Moral Minds” and Richard Dawkins in “Selfish Genes” both suggest that morality/altruism is a part of, and can be explained evolutionary.  He also believes that there is circumstantial evidence that morality genes exist.

He says that evolutionary psychologists would want to say that our noblest deeds are ultimately for self-interest – tactics to perpetuate our genes.

I’ve also heard or read that line before and the idea isn’t new.

He finished of with an interesting insight:

Our habit of moralizing problems, merging them with intuitions of purity and contamination, and resting content when we feel the right feelings, can get in the way of doing the right thing. Far from debunking morality, then, the science of the moral sense can advance it, by allowing us to see through the illusions that evolution and culture have saddled us with and to focus on goals we can share and defend. As Anton Chekhov wrote, “Man will become better when you show him what he is like.”

It was overall a very interesting read for me. I started with the purpose of writing about Sam Harris’ Science of Morality review and ended up reading and expressing my thoughts on Steven Pinker’s article. A very late write but one I enjoyed doing.


Posted: May 3, 2010 in atheism, women
Tags: ,



Why haven’t I heard of this sooner?

It was last week. I could have joined! I’m a skeptic, too!

And I would have loved to have a reason to show some skin. LOL!!!


From Catholic to Atheist

Posted: April 7, 2010 in atheism, personal

I grew up in a Catholic household. I was raised to memorize and do the rosary every night with my grandmother. Church attendance is a must. Most of my relatives work or volunteer in church. I even won in a bible quiz when I was in elementary. (My memorization skills were very good then so I was able to put enough info from the bible into my brain). I went to retreats, camps, healings etc. I went on volunteer works with others (the trip was the catch for me).

I was told I would burn in hell, I would suffer if I don’t follow the rules. We recited prayers for the souls of our loved ones. I never got that but I did my part. (Maybe the prayers for the dead are more for the living so they won’t have to live with the thought that their loved ones are somewhere in hell or in-between…) I was rebelling inside but I still followed. I was questioning things already but the answers were not there for me.

The last time I was in church was 1995. I don’t know why I stopped going. I just did. It was after reading The God Delusion that I finally realized and accepted I never really believed. There was always that nagging feeling that things aren’t what they seem.

THE END OF FAITH: by Sam Harris made more sense to me than the Bible did. Every other thing that religion offered I found an explanation in Science books and others. When I was talking about religion with a very devout Christian, he asked me why I left the church, why I lost my faith. I said because I never got the answer to my question. His reply was that maybe I just wasn’t looking hard enough. I was and I did and I found the answers. In science.

“So what’s your life’s purpose? What about your soul?” was the question he left me with.

My answer? To live life fully because it’s the only one I’ve got. I like to read this one from time to time…

Evolution of Religion

I’ve never been more comfortable and at peace with myself ever. Isn’t that what it’s supposed to be about?