Archive | February, 2013

Filipino Freethinkers Meetup, Mar 3 (Sunday), 3:00 PM, Amici Greenhills

Location: Amici Greenhills (Google map)
Date: Sunday, March 3, 2013
Time: 3:00pm – 6:00pm

RSVP on Facebook

Talk by Keisi Cascon
– Gender and Sexual Diversities

Discussion topics
– Emulating people with AI based on their social media updates
– Publicly torturing heinous criminals
– Jesuits and other progressive Catholics

After the meetup we usually go for dinner and drinks somewhere nearby. 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.

Got questions about the meetup? Contact us at 0927 323 3532

  • 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.

Posted in Announcements, Meetup0 Comments

Earth and Sun

This is the first article for my debut column entitled “Freethinking Me,” which appeared in SunStar Davao last Feb 22, 2013. In my column, I hope to explore issues and educate the public regarding reason, science, and secularism in the country. You can check out “Freethinking Me” every Friday. 

“IF THE earth were 10 feet closer to the sun, we would all burn to death. And if it were 10 feet further out, we would all freeze.”

Fact or Fiction?

I have seen this posted around the internet, and in the past, have heard quite a few speakers tout this “fact” as a testament to the precision and perfection of God’s design in creation. The listeners are astounded and nod their heads in agreement to the wonder of it all.

Read the rest of my article here.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Posted in Personal0 Comments

An Open Letter from the Filipino Freethinkers’ Parenting Chapter

Br. Armin A. Luistro FSC

Department of Education

DepEd Complex, Meralco Avenue, Pasig City

 

An Open Letter from the Parenting Chapter of the Filipino Freethinkers

While we respect and fully support the mission of the Department of Education, “to provide quality basic education that is equitably accessible to all and lay the foundation for life-long learning and service for the common good,” we believe that there is a need to review its mission, namely to be, “globally recognized for good governance and for developing functionally-literate and God-loving Filipinos,” and one of its core values, “Maka-Diyos,” as reflected in the current DepEd Mission and Core values in the following link, http://www.deped.gov.ph/index.php/about-deped/vision-and-mission;

(Image source: foundersintent.org)

While the Philippines is a country whose population mostly belongs to or adheres to a certain religion and believe in the existence of a Higher Being, we believe that such a fact should not find its way nor bias the vision and core values of government offices, but should rather support the separation of church and state and consequently, should be secular in nature.

By contrast, there is still a minority of Filipinos who are neither Catholic, Christian, nor sectarian but subscribe to alternative beliefs or unbelief, including the irreligious, and even Indigenous Peoples (IPs) with their traditional beliefs.

There are some who may argue that the wording, “God-loving”, and “Maka-Diyos” is not a major matter as these are not policies that the DepEd is implementing, per se. It should be clear though that their presence in the vision and core values of the country’s primary government agency involved with primary and secondary education assumes and gives license to the DepEd to translate these motherhood concepts into policies which it can strictly implement in the basic education curriculum.

Moreover, the presence of these two phrases undermines this diverse but significant group of non-theistic Filipinos whose beliefs or lack thereof has been disregarded, overlooked, and not represented by a national agency like the DepEd.

Therefore, there is an urgent need to have an inclusive mission and core values that would value and represent the diversity of all Filipinos’ belief or non-belief.

The 1987 Philippine Constitution is explicit in the primacy of parents’ roles in bringing up their chldren, as expressed in article XIV, section 2.2, “The State shall establish and maintain a system of free public education in the elementary and high school levels. Without limiting the natural rights of parents to rear their children…”

Moreover, educating children about religion still falls under the authority and jurisdiction of parents as reflected in Section 3.3 of the same article, “at the option expressed in writing by the parents or guardians, religion shall be allowed to be taught to their children or wards in public elementary and high school…”

Thus, the law is clear, religion is still primarily the business of parents, and not the State (as represented by DepEd). If parents or legal guardians do not want the state to teach any kind of religion or belief to their children, they are well within their rights to do so.

We also do not think that it would be costly for DepEd to re-evaluate these concepts while keeping true to its goals and aims. And while we heard of some news that DepEd is doing just that (reviewing its VM and core values) https://twitter.com/ffreethinkers/statuses/298730354322313216, the results remain to be seen.

This is our second earnest open letter on this matter to the DepEd, as our first one was already sent almost three weeks ago. http://filipinofreethinkers.org/2013/02/05/open-letter-to-the-department-of-education/

We expect much from the DepEd and we hope the department will not let us down.

Sincerely,

 

Frederick A. Fabian

Miriam Tan-Fabian

Joselito D. Paderes

Clarissa Therese Jagunap-Soco

Andrew Mark S. Uyboco

Lyza Maria Viejo

Cecilia Deveza-Bonto

Josephine Tiongco

Philippe Batingal Schleinitz

Manolo Luis Del Rosario

 

Editor’s note: the signatures of Cecilia Deveza-Bonto, Philippe Batingal Schleinitz, Manolo Luis Del Rosario, and Josephine Tiongco were added after the publishing of this letter.

Posted in Advocacy, Politics, Religion, Secularism, Society2 Comments

FF’s Lab Letters Issue #5

FF’s Lab Letters Issue #5

Hello there! Welcome to FF’s Lab Letters, the weekly science micro-post: VIDEO EDITION!

 

The 5 minute cancer diagnostic test

Jack Andraka is a 15 year old high school freshman who was able to develop a technique to detect pancreatic, lung, and ovarian cancer using carbon nanotubes and antibodies. The paper strip sensors cost 3 cents and results are ready in 5 minutes.

 

BA BA BA BA FA BA BA

The McGurk effect is what occurs when visual and auditory inputs seem to clash. Try lip-reading while listening to the guy in the video above. This phenomenon is unique because even though one is aware that it is an illusion, the effect doesn’t change at all.

 

The other space rock last week

Although largely outshone by the meteorite that crashed in Russia, asteroid 2012 DA14 (predictably) glided by the Earth last February 15. Astrophotographer Colin Legg captured the moment on camera, with other stuff included (meteors, man-made satellites). 2012 DA14 can be seen travelling top to bottom on the left side of the screen. The orange burst of color on the right is a persistent train from an unrelated meteor.

 

Engineering for dummies

(You can skip the intro and head on over to the 1:50 mark)

This is a short lecture from the Chevrolet Motor Division in the 1930s explaining how they solved a problem you may not even know existed in cars – by the ingenious use of differential gears. It’s the bee’s knees! Consider that the next time you take your jalopy out to pick up your squeeze.

 

That was quick and fun wasn’t it? I’ll see you next week for yet another edition of FF LL!

Abyssinia,

Posted in Science0 Comments

Meet a Freethinker: Mike Aquino

No two freethinkers are exactly alike; a group of freethinkers contains a great diversity of perspectives, so there is no one, official perspective shared among all of them. This makes the freethought community a truly vibrant source of ideas and opinions!

In this light, Meet a Freethinker is our series featuring freethinkers of all backgrounds and perspectives. We want to introduce you guys to the people who make up the proverbial melting pot of this growing movement.

Our next freethinker is Mike Aquino: ad agency burnout, freelance writer, striving to be a good husband and dad. He’s a big believer in the magic of the universe (“magic” being figurative, not literal), and hopes his kid gets to see the world that way someday. He is About.com’s Southeast Asia Travel guide, and his work often appears in Yahoo! too. Portfolio here; profile here.

How would you define a freethinker?

I’m absolutely down with the basic Wikipedia definition of a freethinker: I’m someone who believes that “opinions should be formed on the basis of logic, reason and empiricism and not authority, tradition, or other dogmas”. I firmly believe that many of our country’s problems stem from de-kahon thinking: taking clerics, government functionaries, and “respectable” elders at their word, and acting upon them as if their beliefs were consistent with the truth.

At the same time, I don’t believe that there are no limits on the things we can believe or do: I’m a big believer in testing your beliefs against reality. Is there a study to back it up? Has it been proven to work in other communities? Any case studies in history we can check out? I might believe that we live in an uncaring universe with no God to watch over us, but I’d gladly chuck that if the evidence says otherwise.

I might say two books most shaped my outlook on freethought. The first is Richard Feynman’s autobiography, where his advice on designing experiments applies pretty handily to my approach to testing the world and our beliefs about it: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.” The second is Steven Pinker’s the Blank Slate, which shows how utopian beliefs about society can collide with reality, producing quite disastrous results.

What belief system do you subscribe to?

I’m at the stage where the word “atheist” feels too strong, although that’s literally what I am. Would it be dishonest to disavow a word that has far too much emotional baggage? I usually say I’m a secular humanist. I’m really not that hung up about whether God exists or not (though I’m pretty much convinced he doesn’t, and if anybody tells me otherwise, the burden of proof is on them). I’m more concerned about how my beliefs shape the person I am – not just emotionally and intellectually, but morally too.

Maybe it’s the dad in me speaking. As my wife and I raise our daughter, I personally do not have religion to fall back on, and that’s perfectly OK; I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. I’m very interested in how we can impart a moral sense to our daughter even if we don’t resort to the usual clichés of “you won’t go to heaven” and “Jesus is watching”.

Any parent who says they have a moral teaching system down pat is either deluded or lying. Being a dad, and being a successful one without resorting to religion, is still a work in progress. At this point, I want my daughter to know it’s far more important to be kind than to be right. The rest will probably fall into place after much trial and error.

Thanks to the Internet, I have the blogs of other freethinking parents to fall back on: I personally prefer Dale McGowan’s Parenting Beyond Belief blog and Wendy Thomas Russell’s Relax, It’s Just God blog.

Would you send your child to a Catholic school?

That is something we’re avoiding as much as we can. Thank goodness I haven’t had to compromise on my child’s education, as we’re now sending her to a progressive, secular school in the Scout area in Quezon City.

I think Filipino parents have a lot of hang-ups about sending their kids to a school that is not run by a Catholic order. Of course, we were raised to believe that the best education only came from schools run by the Jesuits, Assumption Sisters, etc. (I was educated completely in the Ateneo system myself.) But plenty of secular schools in the Philippines are now giving the religious orders fair competition.

My daughter learns plenty about science, math, and love of country, without the wasteful baggage of learning about religion. In my opinion, teaching theology to kids is a huge waste of time; something I’m glad to say I’m not paying for.

Is your wife a freethinker? If not, how do you reach a compromise (esp. regarding your child’s religion)?

Also a work in progress; I’m not interested in “converting” anybody to my point of view. Respecting my wife’s privacy, I’ll only say she is a believer; we are in agreement on how to raise our daughter and what her long-term educational trajectory should be. This agreement might not be possible if, say, my spouse were Opus Dei or similarly brainwa- I mean devout.

What was the funniest or most interesting reaction you got from a person after you told him or her that you were a freethinker?

My friend asked that, since I was an atheist, if I felt it was now morally acceptable to be unfaithful to my wife. You know, as atheists don’t have any moral guardrails and all? I thought about it a moment, then I ripped his eyes from his head. (I’m kidding. I think.)

Freethought-wise, where is the most interesting place you’ve traveled to?

Southeast Asia (my area of coverage) isn’t particularly interesting so far as freethought is concerned, except that the status quo across the rest of the region makes me feel lucky we have the rights we enjoy in our country.

No law penalizes my apostasy from Roman Catholicism. No laws in the Philippines tell me what religion I ought to belong to on account of my skin color. No law impedes my freedom to criticize the Catholic church and the bishops, and that one law that got Carlos Celdran stands a good chance of being repealed. No law will send me to jail for saying I’m an atheist. No law requires I send my child to a religious school. I am free to say “no” to religion without having to jump through any legal hoops to do so.

It’s not a perfect situation (again: see Carlos Celdran, also see Mideo Cruz), but you ought to give props to Philippine society: we have an amazing degree of religious freedom in our country relative to other places in Southeast Asia, and I am determined to keep it that way.

In what way has being part of a freethinking community benefited you?

When I make my secular, nonbelieving, skeptical, materialistic views public, I don’t feel like I’m a lone nut anymore. It’s no longer crazy to say that the Catholic Church has too much power, or that it’s perfectly OK to live free of religion; being part of Filipino Freethinkers puts me in common cause with a surprisingly large group of people who feel the same way.

Yes, even other parents who face the same challenge raising kids the way we’d like in a super-religious society. The joke used to be that parents automatically found religion after their kids were born; groups like Filipino Freethinkers- Parents prove that that may not necessarily be the case.

I’m also more optimistic now: groups like Filipino Freethinkers may just help move the Overton window in the Philippines away from sheeplike religiosity to a more enlightened, secular way of thinking. A more rational, scientific, secular Philippines… that’s the kind of country I hope my daughter comes of age in.

 

Posted in Meet a Freethinker0 Comments

FF’s Lab Letters Issue #4

FF’s Lab Letters Issue #4

Hey there, buddy! Welcome to another edition of Lab Letters, FF’s weekly science micro-post!

How was your weekend? I hope you found your perfect match at the mating dating game during last Saturday’s Darwin Date! If not, you can still Facebook stalk the one that got away here.

 

Keeping one another company, 7.3 billion kilometers away from the sun

(source: AFP/Getty Images)

Pluto Rocks!

Let’s talk about Pluto. You haven’t forgotten about the little guy, have you? While we’ve known for a while that Pluto has a troop of five satellites in orbit, the two newest (as of 2012) moons have yet to be named. For now they are codenamed P4 and P5 – the P’s presumably stand for ‘plain’ and ‘placeholder’. Thankfully concerned citizens have come up with a couple of potential names and submitted them to the International Astronomical Union (IAU). If you’re not particularly feeling the Greek names (suggestions include: Hypnos, Orpheus, and Persephone) that celestial objects are normally named after, you can go here and submit your own. Voting ends 25th February. Here’s hoping this naming contest doesn’t get hijacked by internet pranksters.

And play bingo all day long

 The 25-hour work week

The head of the newly-established Danish branch of the Max Planck research center is in favor of redistributing the amount of work that people do throughout their lives. Professor James W. Vaupel is an expert in the field of biodemography, the fusion science of biology and demography that usually studies improved longevity and its effects on populations. Vaupel says that people shouldn’t have to spend a majority of their younger years working and then completely stop upon retirement. The better model would be for people to work less hours, but keep working until they’re 80 (or as long as they still can). It would benefit both age groups, as younger people will get to spend more time with their families and pursue their interests, and there is evidence that working part-time can have physical and psychological benefits for the elderly. Everyone wins! Except the robots that would eventually have to do all the work while we lounge around getting into internet arguments.

 

It’s made in the core of a dying star, not of a core of a dying star. Astrophysicists just don’t understand Norse mythology, man.

That’s a lot of elephants

Celebrity astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson speculated about Mjolnir’s weight on Twitter, but was quickly proven wrong when Thor fans pointed out that the hammer actually weighs a mere 42.3 pounds. Still, the discussion doesn’t stop there, as something that light and strong is of great interest to materials scientists. Could it be a form of metallic hydrogen? It is possible that such a substance could be formed? Under extreme physical conditions, perhaps? Like… a dying star?

 

In Soviet Russia… Space Explores YOU

If you still haven’t seen it, here’s video footage of the meteorite that crash landed in Chelyabinsk, Russia a couple of days ago.

 

And here’s a compilation of meteor videos, all in one place

And if you’re wondering why so many drivers in Russia have cameras mounted on their dashboards, this might help explain it. Basically, corrupt law enforcement + insurance fraud. Lucky strike for the meteor, I guess?

 

That does it for this week’s FF LL! Join me again next week!

‘Till then, ♥

Posted in ScienceComments Off on FF’s Lab Letters Issue #4

Meet a Freethinker: Pecier Decierdo

No two freethinkers are exactly alike; a group of freethinkers contains a great diversity of perspectives, so there is no one, official perspective shared among all of them. This makes the freethought community a truly vibrant source of ideas and opinions!

In this light, Meet a Freethinker is our series featuring freethinkers of all backgrounds and perspectives. We want to introduce you guys to the people who make up the proverbial melting pot of this growing movement.

Our next Freethinker is Pecier Decierdo. Pecier works at The Mind Museum and is a member of the Philippine Astronomical Society. His formal training is in theoretical physics, but he is also a sucker for maps, geology, analytic philosophy, science fiction, and Discworld novels. Like Troy and Abed from “Community”, he still hopes for the return of Joss Whedon’s science fiction series “Firefly” on air.

How would you define a freethinker?

When a person holds the scientific mindset, he is skeptical and forms his beliefs on the basis of empirical evidence and logical consistency. Notice that this is also the definition of a freethinker. I therefore think that a freethinker is just someone who thinks scientifically. For me, you cannot think scientifically and not be a freethinker and vice versa.

What belief system do you subscribe to?

I am what Douglas Adams calls a radical atheist. More positively, I am a secular humanist. I also believe that the principles of utilitarianism serve as excellent rules of thumb for ethical living, which is why I am left-leaning in my politics and economics.

In other words, I think that believing in myths and delusions of an afterlife make many otherwise good people believe in really awful things, which can lead them to do some truly bad things. Hence, I think humanity will be in a better state and people will be more able to deal with the pressing problems of civilization if religion becomes a thing of the past. I also think that everyone is better off if fewer people in the world are poor, hungry, or discontented.

What was the funniest or most interesting question you got from a person after you told him or her that you were a freethinker?

A former student once retorted, “So, you never get a penny for your thoughts?”

In what way has being part of a freethinking community benefited you?

Before I was part of Filipino Freethinkers, I was a very bitter, angry atheist. Well, I still am an angry atheist, because there are still lots of reasons to be angry. But being part of FF has taught me many creative ways to be indignant. Because I have people with whom I can share my anger, I discovered that I need not be somber in order to be serious and that laughter and a sense of fun can be great weapons against the forces of irrationality.

What’s the biggest challenge you face as an educator, and how do you address this?

It’s the students’ fear of being wrong. Many students dread experimenting and making mistakes in undergoing the learning process. This is unfortunate because science is all about discovering all the many ways to be wrong so that you inch your way into being right. The fear of error is debilitating to a learner because it prevents the development of independent thinking, making it impossible for critical thought to evolve. When you are afraid to make mistakes, you are afraid to think for yourself; in short, you are afraid to think.

I address this by reminding students that science is not a finished story but a continuing pursuit. There are many things that we still don’t understand, and our understanding of the few things we know about can still undergo revision. This is why we value the questions more than the answers. Encouraging people to ask questions and, if possible, pursue the answer by themselves are good places to start in addressing our science education problem. Students should be reminded that knowledge is valuable only as a tool to thinking critically and critical thinking always involves the risk of being wrong.

As a science educator, how do you deal with shitheads who act like Deepak Chopra, putting facts beneath feelings?

When I am talking and the shithead in question is not around, my first instinct is to make a joke about him. When I see that my audience does not appreciate the joke, then I know I have to worry. Anyone who was properly educated in science should see through the claptrap most pseudo-scientists peddle, because scientifically minded people are skeptical by default. The principle that fantastic claims require fantastic evidence is etched in the heart of a skeptic.

However, I also understand that human beings have a biological tendency to be gullible. As Richard Feynman said, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.” Part of being a skeptic is keeping this in mind all the time, and the best way of training people to be skeptical is to hammer this principle into their heads.

How about when the shithead in question is right in front of me? I guess my first instinct is play the role of the “O rly?” owl. The skeptical third world kid is another hero of mine.

As a physicist, can you give us a brief rebuttal of the First Cause and Fine Tuning arguments?

According to the First Cause argument for the existence of a god, the universe has to be the effect of a cause that is beyond nature. The reasoning behind this is that natural phenomena are always caused by something. Hence, the very first cause should not be a natural phenomenon but should be supernatural.

This argument was made obsolete by quantum mechanics. In quantum theory, the idea of causation takes a different and subtle form; the same goes for the concept of nothingness. For example, we now know that it is possible for quantum nothingness to, without the help of an outside agent, give birth to a universe. You want evidence? Well, at the very tip of your nose, billions upon billions of virtual particles spring into existence right this very instant. Something different but similar happened 13.7 billion years ago to quantum nothingness. Of course the jury is still out on the details of how nothingness became this messy place we call the cosmos. However, the mere fact that a disembodied, supra-cosmic overmind is not necessary in explaining the existence of the universe is more than enough to discount the role of a universe-creating god. Compared to the other options, the god hypothesis is fantastically unlikely.

The Fine Tuning argument says that many properties of the universe, such as how strong gravity is or how heavy the electron is, all have values that make life as we know it possible. To those who subscribe to this argument, this is terribly unlikely to be a conincidence; the universe must therefore be designed — “fine-tuned” — so that life is possible.

There are two ways to rebut it. First, there’s the multi-verse hypothesis. Although it’s still in the realm of cosmological speculation, it is increasingly becoming a real scientific theory. However, I would go for the second way, which is simply to point out the inherent arrogance in the Fine Tuning argument. Even if there is only one universe and even if life as we know it is astoundingly unlikely, explaining the fact of our existence by positing a supernatural cause that created the universe for the express purpose of making us exist is not a valid explanation at all. Far from being an explanation, the Fine Tuning argument is an abnegation of scientific inquiry into the origin of the universe.

Posted in Meet a Freethinker0 Comments

We’re Evolving: Darwin Date Venue Moved to 121 Grille

 

Hi folks, we’re changing the venue of Darwin Date! See you all at 121 Grille in Pasong Tamo Extension. The event will still be held on the same date and time as before, on Saturday, Febrary 16 from 2 PM – 6:30 PM

RSVP on Facebook
Google map to Darwin Date

Posted in Announcements0 Comments

FF’s Lab Letters Issue #3

FF’s Lab Letters Issue #3

Hello lovers! Welcome to another edition of Lab Letters, FF’s weekly science micro-post!

Shock! Surprise! And more shock today as the Pope announces plans to abdicate by the end of the month. Within the first few hours of the announcement, Rome was already abuzz with rumors of possible candidates to replace Benedict XVI, including Manila cardinal Luis Tagle. Meanwhile, the job vacancy has attracted a bunch of interesting applicants eager to don the hat and Prada shoes: check out this cover letter from neuroscientist/comedian Dean Burnett!

Speaking of neuroscience…

Colorized fish brain. Great at parties.

(source: Muto et al., Current Biology)

Fish thoughts revealed using laser pointers and food

Japanese scientists have found a way to look inside a brain and watch how thought happens in real time. They did it with baby zebrafish brains, so the thoughts probably went like: “That Paramecium sure looks like a tasty treat!” The fish were bred so that their brain cells contain GCaMP7a, fluorescent proteins that light up when the neurons are active. When the fish saw something moving, say, a bright light or a potential snack, the region of their brains responsible for controlling eye movements lit up like fireworks. See for yourself, watch the video here.

 

Monopoly kitty: she will kill you with taxes and then her claws

(source: mashable.org)

Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of death

 A recent report in Nature estimates that cats – both domestic and stray ones – are responsible for a staggering amount of wildlife mortalities in the United States. Their primary targets are birds (2.4 billion/year) and little mammals such as chipmunks and mice (12.3 billion/year), making it a looming conservation crisis. Experts are calling for more adoptions, neuterings, and for cat owners to just keep Mrs. Tuffsy inside the house!

 

Owls and their twisty heads

Did you ever wonder how owls can twist their heads all around, and not break a neck or burst some blood vessels? A Johns Hopkins dream team of researchers including medical illustrators and neuroradiologists have found out: a combination of expandable blood vessels and extra space in the vertebrae that accommodate stretching/twisting arteries. Hey, you gotta figure something out if your eyeballs can’t move, right?

Here’s a perfect demonstration, among other things:

 

What’s that? You wanted to sleep tonight? Well tough.

 

Do you smell that? That’s the musky scent of love in the air. Let’s see how other members of the animal kingdom do it – as if they were humans! Those bonobos sure know how to party.

How cuttlefish get down. Look closer.

(source: humoncomics.com)

 

And finally, if you’re looking for something to do this Valentine’s Day, we got you covered. Leave your The Notebook DVD and your ice cream pint at home, and join us this Saturday on the 16th as we celebrate Darwin Day with a Darwin Date! We’ll talk about how evolution has shaped love and sexual selection, what the deal is with Pinoy DNA, and talk about Darwin as a freethinker. We even have a mating dating game planned for the more adventurous folks! RSVP here.

See you there, and see you next week for yet another FF LL!  

Posted in Science0 Comments

Meet a Freethinker: Pepe Bawagan

No two freethinkers are exactly alike; a group of freethinkers contains a great diversity of perspectives, so there is no one, official perspective shared among all of them. This makes the freethought community a truly vibrant source of ideas and opinions!

In this light, Meet a Freethinker is our series featuring freethinkers of all backgrounds and perspectives. We want to introduce you guys to the people who make up the proverbial melting pot of this growing movement.

Our next freethinker is Pepe Bawagan, a man with a ludic prohairesis who seeks to be autotelic. He hates people who use difficult words to describe themselves. Especially that dude who just wanted to say that he has a playful character and wants to live a meaningful life. Anyway, Pepe is a ‘frogrammer by day and a vocalist by night. He works with Revi at By Implication, and together they built Rollcall.ph, a website for tracking attendance in congress. He’s a rabid supporter of Open Source Ecology and has absolutely no ties whatsoever with Anonymous. In a nutshell, he’s the most awesome person you will never know.

How would you define a freethinker?

A freethinker is someone for whom no idea is sacred. Everything is subject to scrutiny. This means reason and science are the guiding principles for a freethinker’s thought process. Freethinkers try their best to have their beliefs and decisions backed by empirical evidence. And where evidence is lacking, they are comfortable withholding a conclusion as opposed to grasping at non-explanations that only open more questions.

What belief system do you subscribe to?

Philosophical naturalism, which contends that nothing is supernatural. It emphasizes the “wholeness” of nature, stating that nothing can be “beyond nature”. If its effects can be detected, measured, and analyzed, then it is part of nature. Otherwise, there’s no point in conjecturing the existence of such a thing. It emphasizes the principle of falsifiability in the process of determining truths about our universe. To quote the late Christopher Hitchens:

“What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

What was the funniest or most interesting reaction you got from a person after you told him or her that you were a freethinker?

“Freethinker ka? So marami kang chicks?”

In what way has being part of a freethinking community benefited you?

I’ve found a group of friends with whom I can talk about almost anything. And since we pretty much share the same fundamental values, we can easily bounce ideas off of each other and grow in the process. But most importantly though, I’ve found something like a second family that I can come home to anytime.

Why is secularism important / Why do you hate Mama Mary so much you heathen?

For the sake of discussion, let’s go with the premise that government is necessary: religion should then be kept as separate from the state as possible if we are to have any hope of actually recognizing basic individual human rights, such as the right to freedom of (and from) religion and the implicit right to not have to pay (through taxes) for the religion of another.

Being an anarchist, though, I must admit that it’s something of a “divide and conquer” strategy for me as I find that both church and (eventually) state should be shed by society. I may be oversimplifying a bit here, but an abstract analogy I would have for the state and church are physical and mental coercion respectively, although admittedly, parts of each can be found in both. Aside from these, I feel strongly about keeping them apart also because history has shown that horrible things happen when they do come together. To quote Charles T. Sprading:

“A union of church and state means an alliance between tyranny and hypocrisy.”

As for the second question:

You dub yourself an anarchist. What’s the biggest misconception people make about the concept of anarchy?

It is that anarchy automatically implies chaos, when all it really means is the absence of government. This is kind of revealing as to how most people feel that they are dependent on the government. It’s pretty scary as well for us to hear that–as if the only thing keeping people from stealing from and murdering each other is the presence of legislation that criminalizes it. I think it’s far more sustainable for people to have a personal sense of ethics instead of relying on written laws to determine whether or not certain actions are justified; and if not, what course of action would be an appropriate response. (Unfortunately this is often a form of punishment in our retributive justice system.) The former allows for better contextual analysis of the many complex factors involved in undesired behavior, which helps us come up with better preventive measures, while the latter encourages intellectual atrophy and usually ends in attempts to treat symptoms instead of underlying causes.

Are you saving yourself for a proper Christian marriage?

 

So reason and critical thinking have brought you to anarchy as a political system. What is a historical example of an anarchist state that you find practicable for the Philippines, or even a smaller country to emulate?

I’m not particularly knowledgeable about anarchist societies throughout history as I became an anarchist more through exploring it from a philosophical angle. But from what I’ve read, Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen, Denmark seems to be a good example of how an anarchist community can thrive despite the presence of state pressures (since 1971 to boot!).

In a nutshell, though, what’s required for anarchy to happen in the Philippines is to change the political system of representative democracy, which centralizes power and forces the will of the majority upon everyone, into one of direct democracy, where local general assemblies are held regularly so that communities can discuss and decide amongst themselves what actions to take regarding the issues that affect them the most. In a direct democracy, votes are cast for policies, not politicians. Cross-community organizing happens through the meeting of spokespeople, who, instead of holding official power, are mere messengers of their respective communities’ concerns.

I could go on and on about how an anarchist society could organize itself, and I’m sure a lot of people have many questions, but I think it would be best to just leave these resources here for those who want to delve into anarchist philosophy:

What is it like having hair like yours?

Thanks for asking.

 

 

 

——-

Image credits:

http://memerial.net/1658-anarchy-in-the-uk

http://memegenerator.net

Posted in Meet a FreethinkerComments Off on Meet a Freethinker: Pepe Bawagan

Darwin Date, Feb 16, 2 PM, at 121 Grille

During Valentine’s season, only the strongest and fittest survive. So, the Filipino Freethinkers have decided to celebrate the Darwinian aspects of love, relationships, and sexy times (and the awesomeness that is Darwin and his famed theory of evolution) in the very first Darwin Date!

Join us for four cool talks and a very special sexual selection dating game, where you can find the kind of lover you’ve evolved to be perfect for! Are you ready to adapt to our awesomeness? It’s absolutely free, and absolutely anyone can come–no matter your relationship status, or how evolved you are as a living thing! See you on the 16th, sexy beasts!

RSVP here: https://www.facebook.com/events/264120553721999/

Posted in Announcements, Meetup2 Comments

Show Solidarity with Carlos: Join the La Solidaridad Walk

Many of you have said you’d like to help Carlos in his case — he’s been found guilty of offending religious feelings. On the legal side, he has decided to appeal the case instead of bargaining for probation, essentially telling all of us that, no, he’s not guilty, and he’ll fight this all the way to the Supreme Court if he has to.

But in terms of taking to the streets, we — fellow advocates and supporters of Carlos — are still discussing the most strategic course of action in terms of being as brave and effective as Carlos was while not jeopardizing his case. Rest assured that we will go to the streets (or even inside certain buildings) when the time is right, and we’ll let everyone know when we’re ready.

For now, we can support Carlos not by fighting but by celebrating. He’s hosting a La Solidaridady Walk to celebrate Rizal’s fight for freedom this Sunday (February 10) at 4pm. He’s already posted details of the event on his site:

Wanna walk with me in Luneta Park on February 10, at 4pm. Meet me under the trees at the Agrifina Circle in front of the steps of the National Museum of the Filipino People. and let’s make pasyal to celebrate Jose Rizal’s FIGHT for Freedom.

Let’s dress up as our favorite Rizalian era characters or whatever you cosplay character you wish, and let’s look at old photos of Luneta online on our iPhones and Androids, and capture this day on instagram, twitter, tumblr or facebook and FREELY upload it online so the world can see the awesome new renovations of our national park. We’ll hashtag #rizalpark #freedom #luneta

We’ll check out the new dancing fountain, the larger than life Philippine Map, the newly renovated gardens, and photograph ourselves in a “DAMASO” Rizal Derby Hat inside our Damaso Photobooth at Art Park!

We’ll cap the walk with a visit to the site where Jose Rizal was shot back in 1896. Of course, we’ll stop and have street food along the way.

Oh and this tour is FREE. YES. As in FREE. It’s my way of supporting the Rizal Park’s efforts in revitalizing Manila’s premier public space and supporting Rizal’s fight for FREEDOM. Mabuhay and Kalayaan!

Visit The National Museum and see the Spolarium before the walk to complete your Manila day. :o)

Text 09209092021 or email [email protected] to confirm.
Oh. And dogs are welcome to tour. Dogs in costumes even more.

Many have already shown interest in going, so not only will you be there to support Carlos, you’ll meet the allies you’ll be marching with when the time comes. And if there’s a fun (and free!) way to start preparing for that inevitable day, this solidarity walk is it.

Posted in Announcements, Meetup, RH Bill1 Comment

Open Letter to the Department of Education

Updated on 5 February, 2013, 6:32PM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

5 February 2013, MANILA  On the official website of the Philippine Department of Education, the following Vision is listed:

The DepEd Vision

By 2030, DepEd is globally recognized for good governance and for developing functionally-literate [sic] and God-loving Filipinos.

The following listing of Core Values can also be found:

Core Values

  • Culture of Excellence, Integrity and Accountability
  • Maka-Diyos
  • Makatao
  • Makabayan
  • Makalikasan [sic]

Screenshot of the said webpage

Filipino Freethinkers denounces these mentions of “God-loving” and “Maka-Diyos” as they are clear violations of the principle of secularism. They enshrine theism as a preferred belief system and imply that those who do not subscribe to belief in a deity are at best second-class citizens who have flawed or incomplete values.

We therefore call on the Department of Education to remove these or replace them with secular counterparts.

We are fully aware though that our government has long been negligent in honoring the separation clause. Similar mentions of god in our currency have been present for a long time (“Faith in our people and faith in God” on the 500-Peso bill and “PINAGPALA ANG BAYAN NA ANG DIYOS ANG PANGINOON” on the 100-Peso bill) and these are also violations of the separation of church and state. Unfortunately, our previous calls for the removal of these clauses seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

Our constitution clearly states that “the separation of Church and State shall be inviolable.” With this, we strongly urge the Department of Education to act on this matter through the omission or replacement of the said clauses with more universal values that apply to both theists and non-theists alike.

 

 

——-

Contact:
Pepe Bawagan, Secularism Advocacy Director
Filipino Freethinkers
09273437441
[email protected]

Update: The Department of Education has replied via twitter that this is an old vision statement that they have reviewed and that a new vision statement will be released in the coming weeks. We look forward to having a more inclusive vision statement from the DepEd.

Posted in Press Releases, Secularism, Society0 Comments

FF’s Lab Letters Issue #2

FF’s Lab Letters Issue #2

And so we meet again, darlings. Welcome to another edition of Lab Letters, FF’s weekly science micro-post!

Last February 1st marked the fourth year of FF in existence. It’s great to be a part of an organization that digs reason, science, and secularism as much as (even more than) I do.

While one may ponder about the prevalence of Reason in the annals of internet message boards, forums, and Youtube comments, and while the state of Secularism in this country isn’t something to smile about, perhaps this week’s crop of Letters can hopefully bring some cheer. It’s time for Science, bitches!

 

Dude… can I see it?

(Source: globalpost.com)

Achtung, Boobies!

Members of a German military unit known for performing drills at ceremonies have grown man-boobs, but only on their left side, apparently as a result of repeatedly slapping their rifles against their left chests while performing. Scientists, doctors, and people who want to avoid giggling call the phenomenon as gynecomastia, and the term for giggling at the misfortune of others is schadenfreude.

 

Not pictured: crystal sex

(source: wired.co.uk)

Blue lights and hydrogen peroxide make crystals get jiggy wit it

New York University biophysicists have synthesized ‘living crystals’ that are capable of self-aggregation under certain chemical and physical conditions. The particles are said to model how living things behave (mobility and metabolism). The lab is now trying to achieve the trifecta: mobility, metabolism, and self-replication. Meanwhile, I never thought I’d ever read the words “blue light,” “hydrogen peroxide,” and “crystals” in a non-rave party context.

 

Zinc fingers (in blue) holding a zinc ion (green ball)

(source: en.wikipedia.org)

Stacking the odds against HIV

Think of zinc finger nucleases as DNA scissors: they seek out a specific region of DNA, then snip it into two pieces, rendering it non-functional. And well, if that particular region of DNA happens to code for a protein receptor that allows the HIV virus to stroll right into the immune cell? Well great! Stanford scientists went one step further: not only did they cut the DNA, they slipped in a bunch of HIV resistant genes as well just to be sure. This hacking and stacking is not meant to ‘cure’ HIV completely, it is meant to block the disease from progressing into AIDS.

 

This week in science history:

You could call it the week of remembering catastrophic crashes. On January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart in mid-air due to a malfunctioning O-ring seal that caused its rocket booster to fail during lift-off. It was to be the spacecraft’s 10th mission. All seven crew members were killed.

left: Space Shuttle Challenger. right: Space Shuttle Columbia

(source: en.wikipedia.org, mirror.co.uk)

On February 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia and its crew of seven also suffered a similar fate while on their 28th mission. A briefcase-sized piece of foam broke off from an external tank and struck the left wing, compromising the shuttle’s thermal protection system. It didn’t survive the intense heat during re-entry.

 

And finally…

Here’s is International Space Station Commander Chris Hadfield demonstrating how astronauts wash their hands in space:

 

See, space exploration doesn’t have to all airlock-ejections and exploding spaceships. Think of all the fun stuff you could do in zero gravity!

 

Join us again next week for another issue of FF’s Lab Letters! I’ll see you then. ♥

 

 

Posted in HIV/AIDS, Science0 Comments

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