Archive | January, 2011

Send Us Your Virgins: A Recap of the 1/30/11 Freethinkers Meetup

Send Us Your Virgins: A Recap of the 1/30/11 Freethinkers Meetup

There was a lot of fresh blood at yesterday’s meetup: Jason the corporate photographer; yet another Jason, the Australian with a soft spot for sustainable farming; Arf from the budding FF-UP Manila Chapter; Coli and Leni from UP Diliman, who were presumably lured to the meetup thanks to Cy’s Green Lantern bodysuit; etc.

Simply irresistible.

The best self intro I’ve ever seen definitely went to newbie Abe. A pity for those who couldn’t attend; you just missed one of the most awesome moments of collective unease in the history of the organization. What exactly transpired, however, shall remain locked deep in the hearts of those present.

Here is Abe (standing in black shirt), hovering over the damned.

The afternoon’s topics guaranteed rowdy discussions: the current situation in Egypt, and what to make of theocracy in such situations; whether the death penalty should be adopted; the ethics of putting up fake online accounts; and the following question: If there was a remote island populated by a self-sufficient community of blind people, would it be right for these people to blind their future offspring?

(For those who would like to continue discussing these topics, or who were unable to attend yesterday, they’re now up on the forums. This’ll be a regular thing from now on.)

While the newbie table was rife with discourse…

…the other table was ALL about the sexual tension.

Once again, the meetup and succeeding inuman resulted in a rollercoaster of emotions.

This is Happy Tania.

This is Not-So-Happy Tania.

(Pictures of the Too-Drunk-to-Care Tania have been deleted out of propriety.)

In the end, we’re glad to know that the day’s discussions and succeeding shenanigans have encouraged the newbies to return. Every meetup, after all, is a guaranteed venue for epic conversation, a motley crew of new friends and, well, whatever the hell this is:

You know you want it.

Posted in Humor, Meetup, Personal3 Comments

Depart into the uttermost corners of the earth, and diligently do your appointed work

Was reading The Portable Atheist and I came upon the chapter about Mark Twain which discussed an excerpt from his work, “Fables of Man”. This reminded me of a very apt picture taken in Pakistan some time ago.

Depart into the uttermost corners of the earth, and diligently do your appointed work. Persecute the sick child; settle upon its eyes, its face, its hands, and gnaw and pester and sting… spare no creature, wild or tame; but wheresoever you find one, make his life a misery, treat him as the innocent deserve; and so please Me and increase My glory Who made the fly.
Thoughts of God
from Fables of Man
by Mark Twain

Pakistani children who survived heavy flooding lie covered with flies as they are forced to live in miserable conditions on a roadside in Nowshera near Peshawar, Pakistan on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)

Posted in Pictures, Religion0 Comments

God is good…all the time

Perhaps many are familiar with those reassuring words that Christians often say in church and during good times, but few people probably know that they came from a song. I took the lyrics and added my own verses between certain lines while attempting to follow the rhyme and flow of thought. The original lyrics are in black. My words are the ones in red.

* * * * *

God is good all the time
His ways are always sublime
He put a song of praise in this heart of mine
And took away my doubting mind
God is good all the time
Though He often allows crime
Through the darkest night, His light will shine
You just can’t see it sometimes
God is good, God is good all the time.

If you’re walking through the valley
And there are shadows all around
Do not fear, He will guide you
He will keep you safe and sound
And if these shadows jump at you
And try to chase you on the ground
Do not run and do not hide
When your heart begins to pound.

‘Cause He’s promised to never leave you
(Most of the time He’s just gonna scare you)
Nor forsake you and His Word is true
But if He does, there’s a reason too.

We were sinners – so unworthy
Still for us He chose to die
He chose not to outright forgive us
He had to be crucified.

Filled us with His Holy Spirit
Now we can stand and testify
That His love is everlasting
And His mercies – they will never end
Though we must redefine His “mercy”
To include the pain it belies

But for all the world’s sufferings
He will make eternal amends.

Lord I may not understand
All the plans He left for me
Your ways are sometimes cruel
For an omnipotent deity

My life is in your hands
And through the eyes of Him I can clearly see
Unless my own eyes are opened
To His monstrous atrocities.

Posted in Poetry, Religion3 Comments

Freethinker Music Weekly

Music is one of mankind’s greatest achievements as far as self-expression is concerned. If you think about it, music wasn’t a vital adaptation that the species needed to devise as humans were developing through time. Fortunately, music is here to stay and there is literally a world of genres and styles to choose from.

It’s no secret that the Christian music genre is a very lucrative one. Many artists make millions singing about their faith and Christian Rock is still fairly popular. It’s fairly easy to research bands who sing about these topics and there are also bands like Creed who don’t go on the record for being Christian but most people can somehow assume that they are. Continue Reading

Posted in Entertainment, Music9 Comments

Forty-four Thoughts of a Founding Freethinker

While the world watches Egypt in revolution, many are unaware that almost three centuries today, one of the greatest revolutionaries was born.

January 29, 1736 is the birthday of Thomas Paine, a man Thomas Edison regarded “as one of the greatest of all Americans.” He influenced intellectuals for centuries with works such as Common Sense, Rights of Man, and The Age of Reason. He inspired such great men as George Holyoake, the father of British secularism; Bertrand Russell, a champion of humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought; and Abraham Lincoln, who lead the fight to end slavery in the United States.

In the 1990s, Truthseeker magazine began celebrating Freethinkers Day on Paine’s birthday. If you doubt that these celebrations should coincide, you haven’t read any of his works, and I strongly suggest you start soon.

For now, here are some excerpts from the writings of Thomas Paine, a founding father who fought not only for freedom in the United States, but for freethought around the world. Happy Freethinkers Day!

  1. I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any Church that I know of. My own mind is my own Church. [Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason]
  2. It is necessary to the happiness of man that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what one does not believe. It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society. When man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime. [Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason]
  3. The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is reason. I have never used any other, and I trust I never shall. [Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason]
  4. The Bible is a book that has been read more and examined less than any book that ever existed. [The Theological Works of Thomas Paine]
  5. Accustom a people to believe that priests, or any other class of men can forgive sins, and you will have sins in abundance.[The Theological Works of Thomas Paine, p.207]
  6. Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication– after that it is only an account of something which that person says was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to believe it, it can not be incumbent on me to believe it in the same manner; for it was not a revelation made to ME, and I have only his word for it that it was made to him. [Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason]
  7. Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is no more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifiying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory to itself than this thing called Christianity. Too absurd for belief, too impossible to convince, and too inconsistent for practice, it renders the heart torpid or produces only atheists or fanatics. As an engine of power, it serves the purpose of despotism, and as ameans of wealth, the avarice of priests, but so far as respects the good of man in general it leads to nothing here or hereafter. [Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason]
  8. It is far better that we admitted a thousand devils to roam at large than that we permitted one such imposter and monster as Moses, Joshua, Samuel, and the Bible prophets, to come with the pretended word of God and have credit among us.
  9. The continually progressive change to which the meaning of words is subject, the want of a universal language which renders translation necessary, the errors to which translations are again subject, the mistakes of copyists and printers, together with the possibility of willful alteration, are of themselves evidences that the human language, whether in speech or in print, cannot be the vehicle of the Word of God. The Word of God exists in something else. [Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason]
  10. It will be proper to take a review of the several sources from which governments have arisen, and on which they have been founded.
  11. They may be all comprehended under three heads — 1st, Superstition; 2d, Power; 3d, the common interests of society, and the common rights of man.
  12. The first was a government of priestcraft, the second of conquerors, and the third of reason. [Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man]
  13. Toleration is not the opposite of intoleration, but it is the counterfeit of it. Both are despotisms. The one assumes to itself the right of withholding liberty of conscience, and the other of granting it. The one is the pope, armed with fire and fagot, and the other is the pope selling or granting indulgences. [Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man]
  14. …Thomas did not believe the resurrection [John 20:25], and, as they say, would not believe without having ocular and manual demonstration himself. So neither will I, and the reason is equally as good for me, and for every other person, as for Thomas. [Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason]
  15. What is it the Bible teaches us? – raping, cruelty, and murder. What is it the New Testament teaches us? – to believe that the Almighty committed debauchery with a woman engaged to be married, and the belief of this debauchery is called faith.
  16. When I see throughout this book, called the Bible, a history of the grossest vices and a collection of the most paltry and contemptible tales and stories, I could not so dishonor my Creator by calling it by His name. [Thomas Paine, in Toward The Mystery]
  17. Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man.
  18. Whence arose all the horrid assassinations of whole nations of men, women, and infants, with which the Bible is filled; and the bloody persecutions, and tortures unto death, and religious wars, that since that time have laid Europe in blood and ashes; whence arose they, but from this impious thing called religion, and this monstrous belief that God has spoken to man? [Thomas Paine, quoted in 2000 Years of Disbelief, Famous People with the Courage to Doubt by James Haught]
  19. The age of ignorance commenced with the Christian system. [Thomas Paine, quoted in 2000 Years of Disbelief, Famous People with the Courage to Doubt by James Haught]
  20. Prophesying is lying professionally. [Thomas Paine, quoted in 2000 Years of Disbelief, Famous People with the Courage to Doubt by James Haught]
  21. If thou trusteth to the book called the Scriptures, thou trusteth to the rotten staff of fables and of falsehood. [Thomas Paine, quoted in 2000 Years of Disbelief, Famous People with the Courage to Doubt by James Haught]
  22. One good schoolmaster is of more use than a hundred priests. [Thomas Paine, quoted in 2000 Years of Disbelief, Famous People with the Courage to Doubt by James Haught]
  23. Science is the true theology. [Thomas Paine, quoted in Emerson, The Mind on Fire pg 153]
  24. All this [Paul’s writing] is nothing better than the jargon of a conjurer who picks up phrases he does not understand to confound the credulous people who come to have their fortune told. [Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason]
  25. …to argue with a man who has renouced his reason is like giving medicine to the dead. [Thomas Paine, The Crisis, quoted in Ingersoll’s Works, Vol. 1, p.127]
  26. Everything wonderful in appearance has been ascribed to angels, to devils, or to saints. Everything ancient has some legendary tale annexed to it. The common operations of nature have not escaped their practice of corrupting everything.
  27. No falsehood is so fatal as that which is made an article of faith.
  28. When an objection cannot be made formidable, there is some policy in trying to make it frightful; and to substitute the yell and the war- whoop, in the place of reason, argument and good order. Jesuitical cunning always endeavors to disgrace what it cannot disprove.
  29. The story of the redemption will not stand examination. That man should redeem himself from the sin of eating an apple by committing a murder on Jesus Christ, is the strangest system of religion ever set up.
  30. Yet this is trash that the Church imposes upon the world as the Word of God; this is the collection of lies and contradictions called the Holy Bible! This is the rubbish called Revealed Religion!
  31. The Christian system of religion is an outrage on common sense.
  32. The countries the most famous and the most respected of antiquity are those which distinguished themselves by promoting and patronizing science, and on the contrary those which neglected or discouraged it are universally denominated rude and barbarous. The patronage which Britain has shown to Arts, Science and Literature has given her a better established and lasting rank in the world than she ever acquired by her arms. And Russia is a modern instance of the effect which the encouragement of those things produces both as to the internal improvement of a country and the character it raises abroad. The reign of Louis the fourteenth is more distinguished by being the Era of Science and Literature in France than by any other circumstance of those days.
  33. The Church was resolved to have a New Testament, and as, after the lapse of more than three hundred years, no handwriting could be proved or disproved, the Church, which like former impostors had then gotten possession of the State, had everything its own way. It invented creeds, such as that called the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicean Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and out of the loads of rubbish that were presented it voted four to be Gospels, and others to be Epistles, as we now find them arranged.
  34. The Christian religion begins with a dream and ends with a murder.
  35. All the tales of miracles, with which the Old and New Testament are filled, are fit only for imposters to preach and fools to believe.
  36. Had the news of salvation by Jesus Christ been inscribed on the face of the sun and the moon, in characters that all nations would have understood, the whole earth had known it in twenty-four hours, and all nations would have believed it; whereas, though it is now almost two thousand years since, as they tell us, Christ came upon earth, not a twentieth part of the people of the earth know anything of it, and among those who do, the wiser part do not believe it.
  37. There is scarcely any part of science, or anything in nature, which those imposters and blasphemers of science, called priests, as well Christians as Jews, have not, at some time or other, perverted, or sought to pervert to the purpose of superstition and falsehood.
  38. Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst; every other species of tyranny is limited to the world we live in; but this attempts to stride beyond the grave, and seeks to pursue us into eternity.
  39. I put the following work under your protection. It contains my opinion upon religion. You will do me the justice to remember, that I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.
  40. The study of theology, as it stands in the Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authority; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and it admits of no conclusion.
  41. All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.
  42. Any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child, cannot be true.
  43. Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law.
  44. But though every created thing is, in this sense, a mystery, the word mystery cannot be applied to moral truth, any more than obscurity can be applied to light. … Mystery is the antagonist of truth. It is a fog of human invention, that obscures truth, and represents it in distortion. Truth never envelops itself in mystery, and the mystery in which it is at any time enveloped is the work of its antagonist, and never of itself.

Posted in Philosophy, Religion2 Comments

Things That Are Bullshit: Martyrdom

People dying for something they believe in, for something they are fighting for. It sounds noble. It sounds heroic. It makes people larger than life. But I need to say one thing out loud. Martyrdom is bullshit. I don’t want to demean anybody’s death. I don’t want to say that their sacrifice means nothing. I don’t think that the struggle that people endured to make their voice heard, to change the world is a pointless one.

What I am angry with is a world in which people have to die in their fight to make a better world.

I think that conscious life is incredibly precious. In the context of the awesome vastness of the universe, a person who is thinking and feeling is a rare singularity. That this person will use their limited time to try to make the world suck less for themselves and for others should be awe inspiring.

In an ideal world, we’d be able to make changes to the world for the better through a rational, reasoned discussion. But this world sucks. In this world, some people who try to make a positive change are visited upon with violence. In this world, precious lives are lost because some can’t or won’t understand the changes that are being made.

That someone loses their life because they fought for something they believe in is something I can’t romanticize. I can’t bring myself to think that it’s a good thing for a person to lose their life for a cause. The idea of martyrdom is bullshit. It’s bullshit and it’s abused to add fuel to the fires of conflict. Christians justify the crusades that arguably started the world’s longest running religious conflict with their martyrs while Islamic extremists continue to compound the violence by creating martyrs.

Screw martyrs. The world doesn’t need more of them.

I write about martyrs because recently, two people have died for causes I believe are worth fighting for.

In Pakistan, Salmaan Taseer died fighting for a secular Pakistan. While he was a Muslim, he protected a Christian woman being charged with Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Taseer was gunned down by his own bodyguard, a man who now thinks he is a martyr.

In Uganda, David Koto died fighting for the equal rights of the LGBT, or at the very least the right not to be discriminated against.

I don’t want to remember these men as martyrs. I think they deserve better than that. They are people who stood for their causes despite great danger. It’s a far more respectful to them to remember them for exactly their live’s works rather than to venerate them and turn them into symbols. It is far better to remember them as merely men rather than saints, for then we know that anybody can do what they did. And the more people that stand up and fight for what they believe in, the more likely the visions of these men will come to pass.

Simple men are more than martyrs.

Posted in Society10 Comments

Knowledge

Knowledge is one of the most important things a person can have. Knowledge that falling off a tall building could kill you, knowledge of which foods are poisonous, knowledge of where to find water, etc.

It’s important to know which information is true, and which isn’t. The problem with this is determining the truth of each piece of information. I’ve been asked many times (mostly by people without much knowledge) how I know that my understanding of the world is correct, and that the assertions of others are incorrect. Well, yes, one could empirically verify one’s assertions, but then he might be asked how the conclusions drawn from this process can be known to be true.

The obvious answer is that nobody can know with absolute certainty that their assertions are correct. Does this mean that nobody should believe anything, because even if they test it, they can’t be sure that it’s correct? No. Certainly one always has to consider the option that they may be wrong, but this doesn’t mean nothing can be said to be true beyond reasonable doubt.

The entire universe could be a figment of your imagination, but it also may not be. Everything you know could be wrong, but it could be right. This leaves a person to determine which information seems logical, meaning it’s compatible with what is known to be true beyond reasonable doubt. There are times when entire areas must be redefined, and this is part of the progression of knowledge, but this doesn’t mean that every idea warrants inquiry.

For instance, if it’s suggested that the entire universe was created less than 10,000 years ago, one can easily see from the available evidence that this is false, and need not become part of the mass of indoctrinated zombies who hold this belief, to know that it’s a steaming pile of horse shit.

So, have an open mind, but don’t fill it with nonsense.

Posted in Religion4 Comments

The Height of Hypocrisy: CBCP Proactive Against HIV/AIDS

We need to construct a compelling prevention narrative… One that inspires countries to mount permanent prevention campaigns that are socially inclusive, that combat public hypocrisy on sexual matters, that build AIDS competencies, and that systematically promote sexual and reproductive health and rights.

~Mr. Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director

In the fight against HIV and AIDS in the Philippines, UNAIDS has found a new ally: CBCP.  In a meeting this morning,  Steve Kraus, Director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Asia and the Pacific, met with Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo. This collaboration might seem like the kind of thing you’d read about in The Onion.

Because this is the same UNAIDS that, in a position statement with UNFPA and WHO, said that

  • The male latex condom is the single, most efficient, available technology to reduce the sexual transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
  • Condoms must be readily available universally, either free or at low cost, and promoted in ways that help overcome social and personal obstacles to their use.
  • HIV prevention education and condom promotion must overcome the challenges of complex gender and cultural factors.

And this is the same Church lead by a Pope who said that

HIV/Aids is a tragedy that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which can even increase the problem.

When two organizations with diametrically opposed opinions work together, one of them makes a compromise. In this case — like in many others — it was the CBCP that didn’t budge. If this is any indication of what the responsible parenthood bill will contain, things don’t look so good.

In the four-hour meeting, “controversial issue[s] such as condom use” were not discussed. How can you play a “more proactive role in the fight against HIV/AIDS” without even trying to bring up condoms? It seems that Kraus knew what he was getting into.

Which is why his focus seems to be on getting the Church to help fight the stigma against people with HIV/AIDS. Kraus said that the meeting was “more about acceptance of people infected or living with HIV.” Sometimes you have to focus on things you can agree on if you want to get anything done. In this case, it’s that people living with HIV/AIDS do not deserve to be discriminated against. I fully support UNAIDS, CBCP, and any other organization in this endeavor.

It would have been fine if Kraus left it at that. But Kraus made some statements that are so patently false I suspect they could have been misattributed to him by the CBCP reporter:

Kraus said it’s high time to “speak on” about the epidemic because what drives the disease at present is “stigma and discrimination.”

By promoting community solidarity, the UNAIDS official said, the church can prevent new HIV infections

So if there were no stigma and discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS, new infections would stop spreading? Like I said, I fully support ending discrimination in these cases. But doing this will not significantly control the spread of the disease. What really needs to be addressed is the stigma against sex, sex education, and contraceptives — all perpetuated by the CBCP.

On the other hand, Archbishop Lagdameo made it clear that although they said they would now be proactive in fighting HIV/AIDS, their decades-old position remains:

“Our support is selective which means to say we’ll help in raising awareness to the people, and address stigma and discrimination,” said Lagdameo, former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
“We will not join in the promotion of condom use; it will just worsen the problem.”

Even after hearing that, Kraus went on to refute “claims that the church is a hindrance to the campaign against HIV/AIDS.” Is Kraus really a representative of an organization that thinks “condom use is a critical element in a comprehensive, effective and sustainable approach to HIV prevention and treatment”? Either Kraus was misquoted (several times) by the CBCP reporter, or he went too far in pandering to the CBCP. Now I don’t know who’s the bigger hypocrite.

Posted in Politics, Religion, Society19 Comments

Colors of the Wind

jll7-poca-disneyIn a certain Christian group in Friendster, a certain Jean asked:
…if you are a skeptic or atheist, why you choose
skepticism or atheism? What are the benefits with your choice of being a skeptic or atheist? If you are a believer before, then why backslide from being a christian, your reasons?

The best way to answer Jean’s question is to use one of my favorite Disney characters Pocahontas.

I was (and still am) fascinated by “Pocahontas.” I am referring to the Disney version; naturally this version does not include her having the Christianized name Rebecca and her death for catching smallpox in England and the tragic death of John Rolfe after he returned to Chief Powhatan and delivered him the bad news.

Back to the Disney version of Pocahontas, I adore the song “Colors of the Wind” sung by Judy Khun .

In the song from the movie itself (Not Vanessa Williams’ version) it began with the lyrics, You think I’m an ignorant savage. And you’ve been so many places; I guess it must be so. But still I cannot see, if the savage one is me. Now can there be so much that you don’t know? You don’t know…”

If I was still a Christian, maybe I might say that Pocahontas’ song was addressed to me. You see, too much fanaticism in religion tends to make you too intolerant with other life forms in this planet. Naturally, your tendency is to say that you, as a chosen of God, know what is best for everybody. If people only accept my belief (like Jesus saves) then that person is saved…in my Christian standard of thinking.

Those “ignorant savages” who don’t heed my warning will naturally be condemned to eternal damnation in hell.

Now, have you heard the parable from a Native American… Well…I guess not since this Injun guy is..er anonymous.

Anyway “Anon” (as he calls himself) has a story that tells about a young boy who asked his grandfather about these two wolves inside his mind. These two wolves constantly fight with each other. One wolf represents hate, arrogance, anger, intolerance and superiority. The other wolf represents love, peace, tolerance, understanding, empathy and compassion. The boy asked his grandfather who of the two wolves will win. The Grandfather replied, “The one whom you feed.”

It’s a simple Native American tale. For a Christian who is too hooked on his faith, the story is nothing more but empty babble from an aging Navaho. But for someone who left Fundamental Christianity, it speaks to the heart. That is the problem of fundamental Christianity. Yes, it speaks of love to your neighbors, yet it also speaks damnation, death and destruction to those who don’t follow its rules, doctrines and dogma.

Notice that we can find verses in the Bible that kindle spirits of intolerance toward people of different faith. It is a high priority on Christianity to love its model of a god. The book also contains records of mass murder and crimes against non-Hebrews. Yes, we can read the story of the Good Samaritan yet we can also read the story on how Jesus treated a non-Jewish woman – describing her as sub-human, as a dog.

This kind of mentality lingered till it reached modern Christian fundamentalism. Today, we can see literature from Christian book stores condemning those who practice New Age Religion. Cautioning people as if those who practice New Age are carrying a contagious disease. Rather than knowing why these people have engaged in this new religion, the majority of Christian fundies label these people as deceived fools.

In my Christian years I always thought that I was on the right side. Naturally, all those outside my circle are wrong. So being a Christian, it was my firm belief that everything outside my bubble of influence is from Satan the devil. There is no other choice.

Notice these few examples of how the most famous Christian Evangelists think these days:
Josh McDowell (author of “Evidence That Deserves a Verdict”) said in a Youth for Christ rally in 1994: “Tolerance is the worst roar of all, including tolerance for homosexuals, feminists, and religions that don’t follow Christ.”

The authors of that Christian book series “Left Behind” said that those from other religious faith should all be burn in hell howling and screeching.

Some American soldiers in Vietnam justify the massacre in Mai Lai that butchering babies would purge Vietnam of the commie stain and that they were on God’s side.

Susie Shellenberg explained it on her radio program “Life on the Edge”, “If you are a born-again Christian, you will go to heaven; if you’re following another religion, then by default you will go to hell.”

This is what Fundamental Christianity is all about.

Let us continue:
You think you own whatever land you land on
The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim
But I know every rock and trees and creature
Has a life, has a spirit has a name.

If you try to listen closely, the song highlights the animistic qualities of Native American beliefs. It should since “Colors of the Wind” was based on a Native American poem.

Native Americans and their culture suffered badly in the hands of the oppressive white invaders, both ethnically and their beliefs. Just read the accounts of what Fr. Serra did to the Native Americans in California.

Let’s not go farther, we can’t deny what Spanish missionaries did to the natives of Philippine Island. Today, thanks for the brain-washing, Filipinos now are condemning their own past heritage as pagans and uncivilized before Spanish Christianity. This is very sad.

“You think the only people who are people, are the people who look and think like you. But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger, you’ll learn things you never knew you never knew.”

Now you know why I left Christianity. The message of the song which Pocahontas sang is my reason why. The meaning is very clear. Intolerance with my fellow humans is a big cause why I am not a Christian anymore. Now that I left Christianity, I can now walk in the footstep of a stranger and learned things I never knew. Contrary to Christian claims, I now saw that there are also splendors outsider the Christian bubble of authority. There are some god-beliefs that are not as harsh as that of the Christians. Hinduism is a good example: Instead of having a jealous God, the Hindu Brahma declared, “I am the same to all mankind. They who honestly serve other gods involuntarily worship me. I am he who partakes of all worship, and I am the reward of all worshipers.”

The Bible teaches that slaves must obey their master yet a simple man named Epicurus, a man to whom no revelation was ever made, a man who has never heard the Jewish god nor has read the Christian Bible have said “Will you not remember that your servants are by nature your brothers, the children of god? In saying that you brought them, you look down on the earth, and into the pit, on the wrenched law of men long dead, but you see not the laws of the gods.”

We find the Bible God speaking on his chosen favorite people to buy bondsmen and bondwomen. Zeno, founder of Stoics, centuries before Christ was born insisted that no man could be the owner of another. Jesus, the Christian Messiah, was silent on that matter.

The same God also ordered his chosen people to kill foreigners who entered His temple yet a pagan named Cicero, who had never read the Bible, declare, “They who say that we should love our fellow citizen but not foreigners destroy the universal brotherhood of mankind, with which benevolence and justice would perish forever.”

Epicurus, another pagan, gave some marvelous guidance for human conduct that says “Live with thy inferiors as thou wouldst have thy superiors live with thee.”

The Bible God ordered his soldiers to spare not even the women, the suckling, the young people and the old folks in war. Seneca, a human being said “The wise man will not pardon any crime that ought to be punished, but he will accomplish, in a nobler way, all that is sought in pardoning. He will spare some and watch over some. Because of their youth, and others on ignorance. His clemency will not fall short in justice, but will fulfill it perfectly.”

Today, Christianity turns its head and accuse these noble pagans as “worldly fools!”

The song “Colors of the Wind” tells the beauty of animism in Native American religion. Here she talks about spirits in Nature that guides humans to their everyday life. There is really no talk of dogmas and doctrines, just an unfettered devotion to the world around you. It’s a simple form of worship.

Which reminds me of another story. A Christian evangelist tried to persuade a Hopi woman to read the Bible and accept Jesus as Savior and God. He handed a copy of the Bible to the woman so she could read it. The Hopi woman politely declined the offer and said, “You said that the Bible is where I can find god, yet if you leave that book outside, the rain, the wind and the Sun and all the elements outdoors will destroy it along with your god. Yet my God is the rain, the wind and the Sun and all the elements outdoors, so why will I need the god inside that book?”

Now that I left Fundamental Christianity, my perspective is much wider and I became happier. The chain is broken and I have stopped feeding the first wolf.

I hope that you have read my message and understand why I left Christianity. I wish that someday you will realize my choice so you may not be deaf to hear the voices of the mountains and not be blind so you can paint the colors of the wind.

Posted in Religion, Society, Stories14 Comments

The Gospel According to St. Dawkins

The Gospel According to St. Dawkins

DISCLAIMER: The following article expresses the views of the author (hgamboa) and does not necessarily represent the editorial position of www.filipinofreethinkers.org.

* * * * *

Last night, after weeks (which felt like years) of screening and deleting the emails I get from the Pinoy Skeptics facebook group, I decided to participate in a discussion with a few folks there. When my friend John Paraiso invited and included me to join the FB group, I loved the idea and mandate of their FB page. But as soon as the FB page got established, I noticed that a lot of the posts there focused on god or religion bashing and I also noticed quite a few rabid self-professed atheists. It’s sad because that FB group could be a great group. The presence of a few rotten apples in the basket seemed to have tarnished the image of the group as I believe some folks have decided to leave the group (including myself).

Well, in my discussion, I recognized a Dawkinian flavor in statements made by some of the participants. I also noticed the use of a few Dawkinian favorite words such as “delusion” (from his book “The God Delusion”, which many atheists hold dearly as if it is some sort of bible). That is fine and dandy; however, what is it about Richard Dawkins and his work such as “The God Delusion” that seem to induce polemic with rabid atheists such as some folks at the Pinoy Skeptics FB page? I wonder.

In a forum I used to frequent, we discussed the (in)famous [depending on which side of the fence you are in] atheist-scientist, Richard Dawkins (RD) and his book – “The God Delusion”. I would like to share with my readers some comments I had with the book. Please note that my comments do not in anyway imply that I subscribe to the beliefs and mindset that RD attack. However, I would also like to point out that I also do not necessarily embrace everything that atheist saint Richard Dawkins says.

In the first chapter, page 18, of the book, Dawkins laid out his definitions of terminology on theist, deist, and pantheist. He referred to deism as a “watered-down theism” while pantheism as “sexed-up atheism”. Of course, with theism, he refers to the belief in the traditional supernatural deity who created everything and comes in from time to time to bend natural laws and interfere with human events. So, with respect to his definitions, I do see his point.

But I guess it boils down to what one means about theism and God. If God is reduced strictly to the word, then I guess I can see the point. But if we go beyond the word and go with the meaning behind the word, it may be a different case. Some may even say that an atheist is not really an atheist. When an atheist says that there is no God, he may mean that there is no God that he has grown up with – that God is not capable of being God for him. Theism defines God as an external being (a.k.a. Supreme Being), supernatural in power, dwelling above the sky, occasionally invading the world to split the Red Sea, to bless and answer prayers…and of course, to punish disobedient ingrates. Of course, with the advent of freethought and modern scholarship, God is now unemployed. He can no longer do what he once was thought he could do. No one needs this God anymore to explain tsunamis, hurricanes, diseases, etc. So if God is strictly captured in theism, which is the belief in this unemployed deity, then the atheist may be just saying that he doesn’t believe in this theistic God anymore.

Anyway, RD brought out a good point regarding nominal religionists who are qualified as atheists. In page 14, he points out:

“The present Astronomer Royal and President of the Royal Society, Martin Rees, told me that he goes to church as an ‘unbelieving Anglican… out of loyalty to the tribe’. He has no theistic beliefs, but shares the poetic naturalism that the cosmos provokes in the other scientists I have mentioned… There are many intellectual atheists who proudly call themselves Jews and observe Jewish rites, perhaps out of loyalty to an ancient tradition or to murdered relatives, but also of a confused and confusing willingness to label as ‘religion’ the pantheistic reverence which many of us share with its most distinguished exponent, Albert Einstein.”

 

On page 18-19, RD says:

“There is every reason to think that famous Einsteinisms like ‘God is subtle but he is not malicious’ or ‘He does not play dice’ or ‘Did God have a choice in creating the Universe?’ are pantheistic, not deistic, and certainly not theistic….Einstein was using ‘God’ in a purely metaphorical, poetic sense…Let me sum up Einsteinian religion in one more quotation from Einstein himself: ‘To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness. In this sense, I am religious’. In this sense I too am religious…”

 

Of course RD differentiated himself from Einstein with the reservation that “cannot grasp” does not have to mean “forever ungraspable”. RD doesn’t prefer to be called religious because he feels that the term is (destructively) misleading as according to him “religion” implies — “supernatural”.

I also do not think Dawkins is necessarily giving Einstein a “pass” because Einstein was such a hotshot. I think this is more of an emphasis of what RD feels of a belief that has a “Deserved Respect”, which is what the section is all about (pp. 11-19). He just gave Einstein as an example.

Further reading took me to what RD said on page 14. He said:

“An atheist…is somebody who believes there is nothing beyond the natural, physical world, no supernatural creative intelligence lurking behind the observable universe, no soul that outlasts the body and no miracles — except in the sense of natural phenomena that we don’t yet understand”.

 

Granting that atheists (may) espouse the words above from RD, but are those words necessarily sound? At first glance, sure. Afterall, RD rightfully posits the improbability of God. The issue is probability, not certainty. The justification for one’s judgment is anchored from the point that observational evidence can never make a prediction or a generalization certain; it can however, gauge merely the ‘probability’. Now the question is – how probable?

RD seems to recognize only two options – 0% probability (blind faith) and 100% probability (from overwhelming empirical evidence). On page 48, he said:

“The view that I shall defend is very different: … Either he exists or he doesn’t. It is a scientific question; one day we may know the answer, and meanwhile we can say something pretty strong about the probability”.

 

This reminds me of RD’s lecture at the 1992 Edinburgh International Science Festival. This is how he ended the dismissal of the “God Hypothesis”.

“The alternative hypothesis, that it was all started by a supernatural creator, is not only superfluous, it is also highly improbable. It falls foul of the very argument that was originally put forward in its favour. This is because any God worthy of the name must have been a being of colossal intelligence, a supermind, an entity of extremely low probability–a very improbable being indeed…. Even if the postulation of such an entity explained anything (and we don’t need it to), it still wouldn’t help because it raises a bigger mystery than it solves.”

 

( For the more complete speech, please see: http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Dawkins_Richard/NoNothings_Dawkins.html)

I’m just wondering… how improbable? What basis is this figure determined? RD says God is “an entity of extremely low probability”. How low? On the basis of what evidence is this probability determined? I’m not busting RD’s chops (nor his followers’) but I am just wondering how RD arrives at any figure. And when does probability determine whether or not something actually exists? He did say that he will be defending the “Either he exists or he doesn’t” view, did he not?

On page 47, RD describes Agnosticism as a “fence-sitting” position. He also wittingly dubbed it as PAP which stands for Permanent Agnosticism in Principle. The PAP style, RD says, is “appropriate for questions that can never be answered, no matter how much evidence we gather, because the very idea of evidence is not applicable”. I feel that this is somewhat misleading. If the scientific method (through empirical evidence) can neither prove nor disprove the existence or nature of God, then either we abandon the question (something RD does not choose to do) or we answer it on other grounds. I think that the question on God’s existence or nature ought to be a matter of intellectual integrity in which all sides of the debate – whether atheist, theist, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, or whatever, seek to offer the “best explanation” of the available evidence. This is basic philosophy of science. It is not going away just because RD chooses to ignore the other explanations or he doesn’t like the non-empirical (e.g. supernatural).

Sure, I am with RD when he rejects the notion of giving equal probability of being right regarding the hypothesis of God’s existence and non-existence. If the scientific method cannot settle an issue, it does not mean that all answers have to be regarded as equally valid, or that we abandon rationality in order to deal with them. Maybe this just means that we have to consider looking at a different level. If empirical evidence is not enough (or applicable) to determine the existence of a non-empirical, then a person has to infer its existence by different means of reasoning. Why can’t God be demonstrated to exist, at least in principle, in the same way? Perhaps the scientific method alone cannot ultimately determine the God question, even though it has a lot of important contributions to give to the debate.

Another thing that caught my attention is RD’s objection to what he sees as the disproportionate privileging of religion. I do recognize RD’s objection to this. I mean what is it about religion that also deserves a uniquely privileged respect? I think this is about attitude. Discrimination may be a product of people’s bias or even fears. People with a strongly held belief may tend to move Heaven and Earth to protect such beliefs if they feel threatened. Just like how the Church has treated scientists in the past that threatened their strongly held beliefs and just like the example of the cop who wouldn’t help the atheist activist in the story told by RD in his book.

But I do not think atheists (or non-religionists) are necessarily the only ones getting the unfair treatment.

Alister McGrath, from his book “Dawkins’ God” tells of the case of an Augustinian monk who, from 1856 – 1863, grew around 28,000 pea plants and observed how characteristics were transmitted from one generation to the next. His name was Gregor Mendel. Now, I think most of us here are familiar with Mendel’s contribution to genetics from our high school biology so I would skip the details of his experiments. Anyway, during that time, Charles Darwin was becoming a very popular figure. Darwin’s theory had considerable explanatory force which was recognized by many at the time, even those who were afraid about the implications of his ideas for the place of humanity within nature. Yet there was a problem with the theory. How did nature “remember” and “transmit” new developments in species? How could a rising generation “inherit” the traits of its predecessor? At that time, Darwin and his contemporaries believed that characteristics were “blended” when they were passed to the offspring. But if that were the case, then how could a single mutation be spread throughout the species? It would be diluted to the point of insignificance, like a drop of ink in a bucket of water. In Darwin’s evolutionary hypothesis, variation would simply become diluted.

Now, Darwin’s theory for the mechanics of inheritance ( known as “pangenesis” ) was based on hypothetical “gemmules” – which are supposed to be small particles that somehow determine all characteristics of the organism. These “gemmules”, at that time, had never been observed; nevertheless, Darwin argued that it was necessary to propose their existence to make sense of the observational data he had. It was an ingenious solution; yet still lacking solid support. Through Mendel’s work, Darwin’s theory would (much) later get some solid support it needed. With that, adaptive mutations could spread slowly through a species and never be “blended out”. Darwin’s theory of natural selection, building on small mutations over long periods of time, suddenly became much more plausible.

Great story, eh? But it wasn’t all peaches and cream. Mendel’s studies were ignored not until 1900 when it was acknowledged and appreciated by Carl Correns et al. B.E.Bishop’s article: “Mendel’s Opposition to Evolution and to Darwin” (Journal of Heredity 87 [1996]: 205-13) offers an explanation why Mendel’s views were ignored. The article says that Mendel’s studies were seen to be in tension with Darwin’s ideas, which were rapidly being accepted as scientific orthodoxy at the time. There was hostility towards Mendel within some circles that some even questioned the reliability of his experiments. It was argued that Mendel’s studies would oppose Darwin’s theory of evolution and they questioned the reliability of Mendel’s studies given this personal agenda. I think this suggests that discrimination (or unfair treatment) is really more about human attitude and not necessarily because of religion.

Here’s another story.

In July 1954, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union ordered an increased explicit commitment to atheism in its schools. Belief in God, at that time, had not yet been eliminated by argument or force. The only option seemed to be an indoctrination of the country’s children. Soviet schoolbooks repeatedly asserted the malevolence of religion and credos such as “The Marxist must be a materialist, i.e., an enemy of religion” flourished. For more information on this, please see:

http://www.infidels.org/library/magazines/tsr/2002/2/022mail.html

and

http://www.uiowa.edu/~c16e051/porritt.doc

So, if RD’s arguments carry weight, can we conclude that atheism (or a non-religionist mindset) also had its share of unfair advantages? And would it be fair to say that such unfair advantages given are not necessarily specific to religion? Even if we widen the scope, not just about discrimination or unfair treatment, but atrocities and evil acts, are we to conclude that atheism (or a non-religionist mindset) is evil, immoral, given the case of the Soviets? No! Of course not! As McGrath says: “The institutional abuse of an idea does not discredit it, whether we are talking about atheism, theism, or democracy.” But I am somehow astonished that RD does not seem to care about this.

Going back to my discussion at the Pinoy Skeptics FB group, there was this participant who was pontificating on the superiority of science. That is fine and dandy but does this necessarily mean that science should be the ultimate determinant of truth? On page 66 of “The God Delusion” a reference to Eugenie Scott on page 66 can be seen. Scott, as RD describes, is an activist of science and is the big cheese of the National Center for Science and Education. Anyway, in an article Scott wrote from the NCSE website, a demarcation problem in distinguishing which is science and which is pseudoscience is recognized. Here is an excerpt of the article:

“First, science is an attempt to explain the natural world in terms of natural processes, not supernatural ones. This principle is sometimes referred to as methodological naturalism. In time, a consensus of how some aspect of nature works or came about is arrived at through testing alternate explanations against the natural world. Through this process, the potential exists to arrive at a truly objective understanding of how the world works.”

 

(For the complete article, please refer to: http://ncse.com/rncse/23/1/my-favorite-pseudoscience )

Now, this makes me wonder again (as I have wondered about this before) about making the distinction between science and pseudoscience. Is there a science that is responsible for making this distinction? Which science is tasked to know what science is and what pseudoscience is and differentiating the two and providing the criteria for doing so? (e.g. Physics? Biology? Chemistry? Psychology?)

Professor Steven Schafersman, in his article from: http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/schafersman_nat.html said:

“Naturalism is, ironically, a controversial philosophy. Our modern civilization depends totally for its existence and future survival on the methods and fruits of science, naturalism is the philosophy that science created and that science now follows with such success, yet the great majority of humans (at least 90% of the U.S. population) believe in the antithesis of naturalism–supernaturalism.”

 

Naturalism, as Schafersman tells, is a philosophy, and the opposite of naturalism is supernaturalism (which is also a philosophy). Granting that science is the ultimate determinant of truth, going back to Scott’s article, if there is no science to distinguish science (materialism and/or naturalism, whichever side you are in) from pseudoscience (supernaturalism) then how are we to make a judgment call on the two? I think, as rational individuals as we claim to be, such questions can be a very humbling question to ponder on. When we talk about metaphysics and spiritual issues, and think of them as useless, non-sense, and illogical, we may have to think twice.

Moving on with RD’s book, after RD gave his objections to the privileging of religion, he went on to attack the God Hypothesis. The very first words on that next chapter are:

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction…”

 

He then supported his assertion with a whole series of derogatory adjectives from parts of the Old Testament. But he doesn’t mention the compassionate love of God in Hosea, the justice of God in Amos, the tenderness of God in the twenty third Psalm, the suffering servant in Isaiah.

The New Testament was not given some slack either. Dawkins asserts that the doctrine of atonement is a “vicious, sado-masochistic repellent, barking mad”. However, he shows minimal thought on the life and teachings of Jesus nor with Christian understanding of the death and resurrection. Sure, I am not a fan of the Christian theology of atonement either, but RD should have at least looked at why Christians live by the theology of atonement by looking at its Jewish roots (Yom Kippur).

Then RD goes on to attack the many failures of religious people. The fundamentalists, the foolish experiments of believers, and so on and so forth. Nothing really new there and I do recognize he is just making a point. However, RD seems to overlook the good contributions of religious people in the world and the harm perpetrated by atheist regimes.

In the third chapter, RD gives us a survey of arguments for the existence of God. For those who are not familiar with the counter-arguments, I’m sure they will find RD’s rebuttals to be spectacular. But for those who are familiar with them, there is nothing new. I do not have any major objections for chapter 3. For me, I think RD gave a nice rehash of the counter-arguments on the issue of God’s existence. I give him two thumbs up for sending the message that the arguments by theists (the ones he gave out as examples) do not prove anything. But then again, a theist may ask, who says these should be about proving God (as if it were all that possible)? A theist may say that the value is not in proving God but in exploring the rational implications of faith in terms of our experience of causality, beauty, purpose, morality, and so on. I think believers of RD may need to think about that should theists decide to throw them that curve ball.

On page 79, RD says that the mature Darwin blew William Paley’s Natural Theology out of the water. Well, I think RD maybe getting carried away with giving Charles Darwin too much credit. The theology has already been rejected by many leading theologians during that time (before the time of the mature Darwin), such as John Henry Newman (1801-1890). Sometimes, I think RD and his fanatical legion (who may very well be Charles Darwin worshippers as well) just get too carried away with their anti-religious rhetoric, as seen in RD’s book and posts in web pages such as the Pinoy Skeptics FB page.

Posted in Religion, Reviews22 Comments

For the State to kill reflectively

Disclaimer: The following article expresses my personal views on the death penalty and does not necessarily represent the editorial position of www.filipinofreethinkers.org. It was also originally published in my blog.

* * * * *

I remember a scene from The Practice where Eugene Young, a defense attorney, was being interviewed  by the Governor’s Judicial Council for the position of superior court judge. They wanted to know his stand on the death penalty.

Council Member: I can see your firm has handled several capital cases out of state, each time taking a position against the death penalty.

Eugene Young: Uh, we’re a defense firm. Our clients tend to disfavor being executed.

Council Member: Fair enough, but as a judge, would you impose the death penalty, should it ever become law in this state?

Eugene Young: No.

Council Member: Why not?

Eugene Young: One—I consider human life to be intrinsically sacred, and I do not believe the state should engage in the systemized taking of human life. Two—Our judicial system is flawed. We wrongly convict over 10,000 people a year, some of whom are sentenced to die. Now, you can always release an exonerated man from prison, but bringin’ him back from death has proven to be trickier. DNA has already cleared a hundred men, many on death row. Clearly, something isn’t working.

Another Council Member: And what would you say, Mr. Young, to the mother whose five-year-old daughter has been raped and murdered?

Eugene Young (after a long reflective pause): I would say, if it were my daughter, I’d like to kill whoever did it myself. And if I ever came face-to-face with the guy, I couldn’t guarantee any of you that I wouldn’t kill him. But if I did, it would be wrong. And for the State to kill reflectively, absent emotion, on ceremony, it is not right.

It appears that Eugene Young has implicitly differentiated homicidal rage over the rape and murder of one’s own child – from cold-blooded execution; the former being the spontaneous and emotional response of a seriously-aggrieved parent, the latter being the considered and systemized, even ceremonial, act of the State after careful reflection, and without emotion. Although he condemns both as wrong, one is definitely a more sinister and graver ill than the other, because while a helpless grieving parent may have little to no control over his or her actions, the State, with all its resources and power to take away liberty and property, is expected to be more circumspect when it comes to taking away life.

And this is expressed best in an oft-repeated motto in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever:

Do not hurt when holding is enough
Do not wound when hurting is enough
Do not maim when wounding is enough
And kill not when maiming is enough

.

Posted in Society32 Comments

Teleporting DNA

While it has been stunningly predictive and useful, quantum mechanics, because of its inherent peculiarity, has been a gold mine for new age hucksters such as Deepak Chopra. Albert Einstein himself couldn’t accept the theory which allowed for particles to take all possible paths from point A to point B and for cats to be both dead and alive at the same time. His aversion to this theory was immortalized in the quote, “God doesn’t play dice,” alluding to the strange universe ruled by random events that quantum mechanics was describing. To quote the physicist Richard Feynman, who made great strides in the field of quantum mechanics, “If you think you understand quantum theory, then you don’t understand quantum theory.”

Feynman’s fellow Nobel laureate, Luc Montagnier, who won the prize for establishing that AIDS was caused by HIV, recently published a paper, entitled “DNA waves and water,” which claims that through the use of electromagnetic fields, DNA molecules, the stuff of life, can “teleport” from one test tube to another. The mechanism this takes is, according to the paper, within the “framework of quantum field theory.”

Montagnier’s experimental setup included two test tubes, one containing pure water, and the other containing a highly diluted sample of a fragment of DNA from the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). After applying a 7 Hz electromagnetic field for 18 hours to both the tube that contained pure water, and the other tube that contained DNA, the tubes were then subjected to a process called polymerase chain reaction (PCR). This procedure takes DNA molecules present in a sample and copies them continuously, based on a particular defined DNA sequence. Their results showed that the pure water miraculously produced DNA, when there should have been none.

Here the two tubes (with DNA on the left, pure water on the right) are shown being exposed to a 7 Hz electromagnetic field inside a µmetal cylinder.

This is a stunning result—so stunning that it seems rather dubious. The claim posited here is that dilute quantities of DNA can somehow emit “DNA waves” via its natural electromagnetic field and that this signal mimics the exact DNA sequence of the source in water. This signal can supposedly imprint itself into water. Such an outlandish declaration just cannot avoid comparisons to homeopathy. The paper’s conclusion also favors a rather convoluted solution (DNA waves) over a much more simple explanation: contamination. The retention of an electromagnetic field in the absence of the signal source is, however, entirely possible within quantum mechanics, though only in the order of picoseconds (one trillionth of a second)—certainly not enough time for a PCR reaction to take place (which usually takes about an hour).

The nature of PCR is that it is so effective at making copies of DNA that even just one molecule of DNA can be amplified. Imagine thousands of photocopiers that randomly take any page in their vicinity and copy them. Even if you just had one page to be copied, such a sheet containing the letter “X”, you could create millions of copies of this letter in no time since the copies of that page will be used by the other photocopiers to make even more copies—a chain reaction. Now, let’s say that just one stray sheet with the letter “Y” accidentally flew into the copier room. By the end of your copying, you’d have yourself billions of sheets with either “X” or “Y”. That’s how even one tiny splatter of contaminating DNA (from instruments used or even one’s own hands) can ruin an experiment.

Messing up a PCR experiment is so easy that Montagnier’s observation has to be reproduced by other scientists before it can even be taken seriously. The only reason it seems to be grabbing headlines is that Montagnier is a Nobel laureate. But, Nobel laureates are vulnerable to the dreaded “Nobel disease,” when noted scientists who have won the prize later support pseudoscientific ideas.

The originator of PCR, Kary Mullis, also won the Nobel prize, only to go on to deny the link between HIV and AIDS. Another laureate, Linus Pauling, who won two Nobel prizes, promoted the quackery that vitamin C treated cancers and prevented colds, late in his career.

However, regardless of accusations of Nobel disease, Montagnier’s ideas shouldn’t be dismissed offhand. If his observations can be consistently replicated by other researchers (and contamination is ruled out), then a revolution will occur in biology and all of science. It’s a prospect one can’t help but be excited about, but wonder should always be coupled with skepticism.

Posted in Science14 Comments

FF Podcast 003: Angling for Anglicans

A new host appears! In this episode, we talk about Archbishop Rosales bemoaning the decay of society and blaming Hollywood; the Responsible Parenthood bill and its possible ramifications and the Vatican angling for Anglicans.

Links for this Vodcast’s issues.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes



Posted in Podcast2 Comments

January 30 (Sunday) Anson's Starbucks Meetup

Location: Starbucks at Anson’s (Google map)
Date: Sunday, January 30, 2011
Time: 2:30pm – 5:30pm

RSVP on Facebook

Third time’s the charm as we hit three meetups this January. Perhaps you’ve hesitated to go to the meetups before because you don’t quite know what to expect at the meetups. Well, there’s always the fun, intelligent (most of the time) conversations between like minded people and theres the added bonus of not eating babies.

Discussion Topics
Scientific Concepts for Improving the Cognitive Toolkit
– Disabilities as Culture
Freethinkers Day (Jan 29)
– We are Legion: Ethics of Multiple Online Accounts

After the meetup we go for dinner and beer drinking at Congo Grill at El Pueblo (see map). If you’re not a meetup regular and can’t make it for the meetup but would like to go for the post meetup, please indicate on a post in the wall or comment so we can contact you.

* Newbies are welcome.
* Look for the FF sign (or the group of smart, sexy people).
* There is no required age, religion, philosophy, or IQ level.
* Discussions are informal yet intelligent (most of the time).
* You don’t have to talk; you can just sit in and listen.
* You don’t have to buy anything from Starbucks.

Posted in Meetup1 Comment

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