Friday, November 26, 2010

The History of the Devil

The Girl Effect: The Clock is Ticking

Music: "Natural Selection" - Baba Brinkman

So what-ch-you know about Natural Selection? Go ahead
And ask a question and see where the answer gets you
Try bein’ passive aggressive or try smashin’ heads in
And see which tactic brings your plans to fruition
And if you have an explanation in mind, then you’re
Wastin’ your time, ‘cause the best watchmaker is blind
It takes a certain base kind of impatient mind
To explain away nature with “intelligent design”
But the truth shall set you free
From those useless superstitious beliefs
In a literal Adam and Eve, and that Edenic myth
‘Cause their family tree is showin’ some genetic drift
Take it from this bald-headed non-celibate monk
With the lyrical equivalent of an elephant’s trunk
It’s time to elevate your mind-state
And celebrate your kinship with the primates

The weak and the strong, who got it goin’ on?
We lived in the dark for so long
The weak and the strong, Darwin got it goin’ on
Creationism is dead wrong

Okay, it’s time to reveal my identity
I’m the manifestation of tens of millions
Of centuries of sexual selection, best believe
I’m the best of the best of the best of the best
Of generations of competitive pressure genetically
But don’t get upset, ‘cause we’ve got the same pedigree
You and I will find a common ancestor eventually
If we rewind geological time regressively
And I could say the same for this hibiscus tree
And this lizard and this flea and this sesame seed
And if you still disbelieve in what your senses perceive
Then I could even use this rhyme as a remedy
‘Cause there’s so much variation in the styles in this industry
And differential survival when the people listening
Decide what they’re into and what really isn’t interesting
You could thrive like Timberlake on a Timberland beat
Or go extinct like Vanilla Ice and N’Sync
It’s survival of the fittest, but fitness is a tricky thing
It changes from place to place and from winter to spring
But the real question in this social-scientific simile
Is heredity, whether we inherit our techniques
From our predecessors, or invent them independently
But then we’re talkin’ memes and that’s a different thing
Richard Dawkins can I get a proper definition please?

The weak and the strong, who got it goin’ on?
We lived in the dark for so long
The weak and the strong, Darwin got it goin’ on
Creationism is dead wrong
The weak and the strong, who got it goin’ on?
Whoever leaves the most spawn
The weak and the strong, Darwin got it goin’ on
Creationism is erroneous

I hear some people complain, like “I don’t wanna be an ape!
I never came from monkey DNA!
I believe God made me in a day – Jesus saves!”
Yeah, he’s great, but stop bein’ afraid
To use the reason “he” gave you to let science solve
Some giant problems and find some final results
I think it’s time for y’all to let your minds evolve
And listen to a different kind of silent call
The kind that comes from pine trees and not Pinesol
I’m talkin’ about the mystical vision that Einstein saw
Wondering at the infinite depth of divine thought
And realizing that scripture can never define God
‘Cause if there is a personal God, then he’s been jerkin’ off
So why would he bother designing an albatross
Especially when natural selection does such an excellent job
Just by balancing benefits and costs?
I say banish God into the gaps
If he can’t help us understand the simplest facts
I want a relaxed God of infinite naps
We’ll be all right without him, just give us a chance

The weak and the strong, who got it goin’ on
We lived in the dark for so long
The weak and the strong, Darwin got it goin’ on
Creationism is dead wrong

(Listen to the whole album here: The Rap Guide to Evolution)

Music: "I'm a African" - Baba Brinkman

I’m a African, I’m a African
And I know what’s happenin’
I’m a African, I’m a African
Archaeologists know what’s happenin’
You a African? You a African?
Do you know what’s happenin’?
I’m a African, I’m a African
Geneticists know what’s happenin’

No I wasn’t born in Ghana but Africa is my mama
‘Cause that’s where my mama got her mitochondria
You can try to fight if you wanna, but it’s not gonna change me
‘Cause it’s plain to see, Africans are my people
And if it’s not plain to see then your eyes deceive you
I’m talkin’ primeval; the DNA in my veins
Tells a story that reasonable people find believable
But it might even blow your transistors;
Africa is the home of our most recent common ancestors
Which means human beings are all brothers and sisters
So check the massive evidence of Homo erectus
And Australopithecus afarensis in the fossil record
And then try to tell me that we’re not all connected
The fossil record has gaps but no contradictions
And it complements the evidence in your chromosomes
So I came to let you know about your ancestral home

Chorus x1

Yeah, it’s plain to see, you can’t change me
‘Cause I’ma be a Homo sapien for life
Yeah, it’s plain to see, you can’t change me
‘Cause I’ma be a Homo sapien for life

Yeah, the red is for the blood in my arm – it runs in the veins
Of all my cousins from the same African mom
And the black is for the melanin, which I guess I lost
A mutation with benefits that offset the costs
At least in the North, after massive glaciation
My family passed through some adaptive radiations
We started as Africans, and then became Eurasians
And then one final migration made us Canadians
But it’s back to my origin, ‘cause I understand
For every colour of man, Africa is the motherland
So I’m comin’ back, that’s my right of return
I’m only speakin’ the facts, which I invite you to learn
We came from Africa first; Charles Darwin predicted it
‘Cause that’s where modern chimps and gorillas live
So the green is for the envy in the eyes of intelligent design
Advocates and scientific illiterates

Chorus x1

Music: "Scientific Method" - Mr. Lee

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner Grace

Let us take a moment to think about where the food we are about to enjoy has come from and to acknowledge those who worked to bring us this food. Let us appreciate the earth, the sun, the air, and the water needed to nourish the plants and animals. Let us thank the farmer who cared for the plants and animals and the migrant worker who toiled to harvest the crops. Let us thank the laborer who processed the food, the truck driver who brought the food, and the grocery store workers who displayed it. Finally, let us thank our friends who prepared this meal and have provided us with the opportunity to be together and share each other's company.

Silverman, H. (2010, 25. Nov.). A secular Thanksgiving. The Washington Post.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Music: "White Wine in the Sun" by Tim Minchin

I really like Christmas. It's sentimental, I know, but I just really like it. I am hardly religious. I'd rather break bread with Dawkins than Desmond Tutu, to be honest. And yes, I have all of the usual objections to consumerism, to the commercialization of an ancient religion, to the westernization of a dead Palestinian press-ganged into selling Playstations and beer. But I still really like it.

I'm looking forward to Christmas, though I'm not expecting a visit from Jesus. I'll be seeing my dad, my brother and sisters, my gran and my mum; they'll be drinking white wine in the sun. I'll be seeing my dad, my brother and sisters, my gran and my mum; they'll be drinking white wine in the sun.

I don't go in for ancient wisdom. I don't believe just 'cos ideas are tenacious it means that they’re worthy. I get freaked out by churches, some of the hymns that they sing have nice chords but the lyrics are dodgy. And yes I have all of the usual objections to the miseducation of children who, in tax-exempt institutions, are taught to externalize blame, and to feel ashamed and to judge things as plain right or wrong. But I quite like the songs.

I'm not expecting big presents. The old combination of socks, jocks and chocolate is just fine by me. Cos I'll be seeing my dad, my brother and sisters, my gran and my mum; they'll be drinking white wine in the sun. I'll be seeing my dad, my brother and sisters, my gran and my mum; they'll be drinking white wine in the sun.

And you, my baby girl, my jetlagged infant daughter. You'll be handed round the room, like a puppy at a primary school. And you won't understand, but you will learn someday. That wherever you are and whatever you face, these are the people who'll make you feel safe in this world. My sweet blue-eyed girl.

And if, my baby girl, when you're twenty-one or thirty-one and Christmas comes around, and you find yourself nine thousand miles from home, you'll know what ever comes…your brother and sisters and me and your Mum, will be waiting for you in the sun. Whenever you come, your brothers and sisters, your aunts and your uncles, your grandparents, cousins and me and your mum, we'll be waiting for you in the sun, drinking white wine in the sun. Darling, when Christmas comes, we'll be waiting for you in the sun, drinking white wine in the sun. Waiting for you in the sun. Waiting for you...waiting...

I really like Christmas. It's sentimental, I know...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Why Call Him God? (The Thinking Atheist)

Christopher Hitchens on Free Speech (1/3)

The Atheism Tapes

Jonathan Miller interviews intellectuals about religion and faith.

Extraordinary People: The Million Dollar Mind Reader (1/5)

Derek Ogilvie says he can read the minds of infants who are too young to communicate verbally. Now he agrees to undergo a series of controlled experiments to test the limits of his alleged abilities. He even faces the ultimate sceptic in the form of James Randi, an investigator of the paranormal who has offered $1million to anyone who can provide evidence of the supernatural.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Debate: Does the Universe have a purpose?

Matt Ridley, Michael Shermer, Richard Dawkins VS Rabbi David Wolpe, William Lane Craig, Douglas Geivett

Monday, November 15, 2010

Philosophy 4 Children

Philosophy can be defined as the study of general and fundamental problems, by thinking critically and systematically and engaging in rational argumentation. All students can benefit from philosophy, so there is just no good reason why they should not be taught it.

How to Teach Philosophy

Students should not read books or listen to lectures; rather they should be motivated to engage themselves in debate about topics and ideas that concern them and they think are worthwhile pursuing. Philosophy taps children's natural curiosity and sense of wonder. The subject matter is common and central concepts that underpin both our experience of human life and all academic disciplines, such as: truth, knowledge, right, wrong, bad, good, justice, fairness, etc. Topics and ideas for discussion can be found in books, movies, on the Internet or other sources.

Community of Inquiry

Students should work together to generate and then answer their own questions about an issue; it is a community of inquiry. In this community, as all participants share their own ideas and arguments, each individual student must consider many different opinions and perspectives. The students become accustomed to asking each others for reasons and opinions, listening carefully to each other, and build on each others' ideas. This encourages students to take responsibility for their own learning process and develop as independent thinkers. They develop confidence and courage to put forward their own views and arguments in a group.

Between Absolutism and Relativism

The discussion should be aimed at constructing the most reasonable and defensible answer(s) to the question(s). Answers are not provided or validated by the teacher. The teachers' role is to develop and challenge the students thinking. The students have the responsibility for both constructing and evaluation the range of possible responses to a question. Even if final answers are not obtained, students will find out that some answers are more reasonable and defensible than others. The rigorous nature of the inquiry, and the emphasis on assessing reasons for positions, means that, in practice, the students are very unlikely to come to the conclusion that “anything goes”. In addition, students will create a stable set of core intellectual and ethical values which have withstood the test of careful evaluation.

The Benefits

Philosophy engages children in a search for meaning, extends their understanding, strengthens thinking skills, and builds self-esteem. They improve their communication skills and their abilities to work with others.

Thinking Skills:

• Analyzing concepts and clarifying ideas
• Constructing and evaluating arguments
• Deductive and inductive logic
• Identifying fallacies
• Identifying underlying suppositions and assumptions
• Finding examples and counter examples
• Formulating and testing criteria
• Seeing broader perspectives and fundamental principles
• Seeing connections and recognizing implications
• Testing ideas with thought experiments

Intellectual Values:

• Confidence and Courage
• Curiosity, Open-mindedness and Skepticism
• Integrity and Consistency
• Offer and Accept Constructive Criticism
• Truth and Honesty

Ethical Values

In the community of inquiry requires and develops a range of values that are essential to participation in a society, in which there exists a plurality of democratic values, including: tolerance, openness, and co-operation.

Transferable Skills and Values

Thinking skills and values are transferable. They enable students to make bridges between various things they learn, thus making the curriculum more meaningful and therefore more exiting. This will increase their motivation and liking for intellectual work. Both thinking skills and values will improve social interaction and responsibility.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Great Debate Panel (6.11.2010)

A lively panel discussion between Steven Pinker, Sam Harris, Patricia Churchland, Lawrence Krauss, Simon Blackburn, Peter Singer. If human morality is an evolutionary adaptation and if neuroscientists can identify specific brain circuitry governing moral judgment, can scientists determine what is, in fact, right and wrong?

It Does Not Interest Me…I Want to Know…

It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love. If you fail at something, will you come back and try again and not give up easily? I want to know if you have been opened by betrayals and sorrows, or closed down from fear of further pain. Do you pick yourself up when you have been knocked down? I want to know if you can get up after a night of grief and despair, stubbornly carry on and keep your head up.

It doesn't interest me what the color of your skin is, or if you are skinny or fat. I want to know what is on the inside, your personality, your virtues and vices. Are you a moral person with principles and values? I want to know if you live a self-examined life. Do you know yourself and are you in touch with your own feelings? I want to know if you have integrity and a healthy love of your “self”. Can you tackle personal criticism and not let it get you down?

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know if you are willing to change your opinions in light of evidence and sound arguments. Are you skeptical and open minded? I want to know if you have passionately pursued wisdom. Are you curious about the universe and our place in it? Do you value truth more than comforting beliefs?

It doesn't interest me which religion you adhere to. I want to know if you can take the good without the bad and if you are tolerant. Will you defend the universal rights to freedom of belief, conscience, practice and speech? I want to know if you have the courage to stand up to any black sheep in your own house. And, will you do what is right for the children and let them choose their own paths?

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living, what you own, or how much money you have. I want to know if you have found your purpose. What are your goals and dreams? What do you desire most of all? I want to know if you are a spiritual person: if you got your mind on “higher” things, and is passionately devoted to a belief about the meaning of life and the path to the collective happiness of the human race.

It doesn't interest me who you know or how many friends you have. I want to know if you are compassionate. Will you fight evil wherever and whenever you see it manifests itself, and struggle to make this world a better place for all of humanity? I want to know if you can die tomorrow, but say today that you did your best with what you had and be content, with no regrets.

(This was inspired by, “The Invitation” by Oriah)

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Compassion is love of humanity, and one of the greatest of all virtues.

Compassion is more powerful and more extensive than empathy and kindness. Compassion is the capacity to feel both empathy and sympathy, coupled with the realization that all human beings wish and desire to be free from suffering and shielded from harm.

Compassion is an active desire that others be free from suffering, to alleviate their suffering and to shield them from harm. Compassion moves a person to destroy the causes of harm and suffering. A compassionate person shelters and embraces the distressed and the victim.

Compassion is often, but not necessarily, the key component of altruism. The Golden Rule embodies the principle of compassion. True compassion extends to all human beings; it knows no limit.

There are two main reasons to be compassionate: First, to protect fellow human beings from or help them to escape suffering and harm; and second, if you want to experience genuine happiness then you should value compassion and act compassionately.

Without compassion our world would be a dark place without much meaning. Therefore, compassion should be praised and rewarded whenever and wherever we see it manifest itself.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Spiritual experiences are a subset of ordinary psychological experiences. All spiritual experiences are of the same core nature, and are molded and interpreted by the subject, in light of his or her personal worldview. This explains reports of spiritual experiences in all of the world’s religions; it cannot be explained by supposing that only one religion is true. Thus, “being spiritual” does not entail being religious and “spirituality” do not entail religion or anything supernatural. Therefore, spiritual experience in itself cannot be taken as proof of any specific worldview.

A spiritual experience is a combination of the sensation of inner peace, awe and enlightenment, which culminates in a reverence for nature and life, and sincere self-reflection about the cosmos and oneself.

A spiritual person is someone who lives a self-examined life and has his mind on “higher” things, not obsessed with property or personal gain, but is passionately devoted to a belief about the meaning of life and the path to human happiness.

Spiritual experiences are potentially beneficial, contributing to the quality of human life and they often produce emotional harmony and contentment, clarity of thought and perspective. Spiritual experience leads to and reinforces the spiritual lifestyle.

There are several paths to spirituality. First, meditation can be a path to spiritual enlightenment and ought to be mastered by all. It can have beneficial effects on self-understanding and health. Second, an appreciation of science can be a path to spiritual awakening: by taking in the awe of nature and the complexity of the cosmos, can give a spiritual awakening, a profound reverence and amazement in the face of breathtaking beauty and the immense powers of the nature.

"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual" – Carl Sagan

Any devoted and true philosopher is a spiritual person who has spiritual experiences.

Richard Carrier – Sense and Goodness without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Meningen med Livet

Våre liv er ikke meningsløse eller verdiløse fordi vi en gang vil dø. Alt vi finner meningsfullt og verdifullt i vårt liv, våre erfaringer, varer ikke evig. Det er ikke meningsløst å høre på en sang fordi den en gang vil slutte. Det gjør ikke noe at livet er kort; selve muligheten er den største gaven: vi bor på en vakker planet i et fascinerende solsystem i et mystisk univers, og vi har muligheten til å erfare det, studere det, erkjenne det, og elske det.

Mening finner vi ikke bare i vår eksistens her og nå, men også i våre håp og drømmer for fremtiden, både vår egen og medmenneskers, deriblant våre barns. Meningen med livet er et sunt sinn i en sunn kropp, som søker og manifesterer det den kan elske dypes.

Kjærlighet er nøkkelordet. Hva er verdt å elske? Visdom og Skjønnhet. Pennens makt og fornuftens styrke. Menneskehetens potensial og medmenneskers godhet. Tenk på hvor mange vidunderlige personer vi kjenner, som er verdt å elske, kun på grunn av det faktum at vi skulle ønske det var flere av dem i verden, fordi de gir oss en grunn til å leve, de gjør våre liv mer meningsfulle og verdifulle.

Meningen med livet er å skape en bedre verden for alle sammen. Dette formålet er knyttet til moral. Du bør alltid handle slik at du ikke bare tenker på din egen lykke, men også maksimere andres. Kun en person som er moralsk kan oppleve autentisk lykke. Universet er ikke-intelligent, ikke-empatisk. Det bryr seg ikke om vår velferd, lykke eller helse, fordi det ikke kan. Vi må være godheten i universet. Det eneste nødvendig for at ondskap florerer, er at gode menneske ikke bekjemper den. Derfor bør vi beskytte dem vi elsker fra lidelse, ved å gjøre det rette.

Ved å bidra til å skape en bedre verden gir vi en gave til utallige medmennesker som vil leve etter vi er borte. Vi kan gjøre universet litt lysere gjennom våre handlinger. Så hvis vi synes det er for mye ondskap i verden, bør vi gjøre noe med det. Og det gir våre liv mening. Ved å gjøre verden litt bedre og mer meningsfull, får vi selv mening og verdi i våre liv.

"Accept a life of reason, a life of love for science, truth and humanity...Seek to live your life by the true humanistic ideals of compassion and integrity...And help us work toward a better future for all of humanity" - Richard Carrier