Archive | June, 2013

YES to Safe Spaces for the LGBT

1012301_528014567258922_978587850_nAs LGBT allies, we, the Filipino Freethinkers, strive to maintain an environment where no one will be discriminated for their gender or sexuality — a #safespace — in our meetups and other events, as well as online.

We acknowledge the equal rights of all human beings, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE). As such, our community welcomes and promotes the acceptance of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, and persons of other non-heteronormative gender or sexual identities.

We denounce prejudice, intolerance, hate, and violence against these people, and condemn the use of religion to justify the denial of their rights. We stand against homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia — attitudes based on ignorance, perpetuated by bigotry.

We shall continue our advocacy to raise awareness and understanding of gender and sexuality by facilitating and engaging in meaningful discussions using reason and science.

We also support the legislation and implementation of a nationwide anti-discrimination law and similar local government ordinances, as well as policies in schools, workplaces, commercial establishments, and other places.

We are one with LGBT rights activists and advocates in making our country a place where everyone is equal and free to live and be happy.

Let’s create a SAFE Philippines.

 

Check out the events lined up for UP Pride Week here.

Posted in Advocacy, Gender Rights0 Comments

Hell on a Holiday: Getting Soaked in San Juan

bucket-of-water-kellie-hogbenThis morning, I fell victim to San Juan Day. San Juan Day is the one day a year that the locals of San Juan City, Manila take to the streets and douse each other with water, in supposed commemoration of St. John the Baptist, the man said to have baptized Jesus Christ. What sounds like a day of lighthearted merrymaking, however, is always morphed into the locals’ excuse to prank on unsuspecting folks on their way to their jobs or schools. Dousing other celebrants is one thing, but going up to someone who is very obviously not participating in the festivities and is minding their own business is another thing entirely. Worse, the water usually comes from questionable sources. I wouldn’t touch that stuff, much less bathe in it.

On my way out of our apartment building, one of the security personnel actually warned me not to walk out on the streets. I was idiotic enough to assure him that I was going to be fine, as I was just going to grab a cab by the next building. I should have taken heed, though, more so when I noticed how my neighbors were just standing by the lobby entrance, looking out with utter wariness into the street, like children warned of kidnapping strangers and speeding ten-wheelers.

But no, I remained an idiot, and stepped out onto the asphalt. That’s when a bunch of street urchins wielding grotty buckets of water spotted me and headed in my direction. I could already sense the mix of horror and schadenfreude pulsing from the souls in the lobby. So, I ran. And the kids gave chase. I had managed to get to the lobby entrance, but not before some of the water splashed across my back. That’s when I screeched out one crisp WHAT THE FUCK amidst everyone, and it was all I could do not to head over to those kids and whack them with my umbrella.

But that didn’t compare with what happened to the next guy. He had also just come out of a nearby building, wielding a backpack and sporting earphones. He seemed absolutely oblivious to what was going on, and walked calmly in the middle of the street. This time, a horde of grown men with buckets eyed the poor guy, and they headed up to him and threw the water at him from a mere foot away. Earphones Dude was drenched. And he looked to be in utter shock, because he just froze there, his face blank for a few seconds. Then, he made as if to punch one of the Bucket Men, but missed, and one of them countered with their own jab, hitting Earphones Dude square on the chin. Earphones Dude looked like he was going to blow, and I couldn’t blame him. It was a Monday morning, he was minding his own business, and here comes a group of men who threw buckets of water at him, drenching his clothes, his backpack, his electronics, and punches him in the face. That is fucked up.

And the worst part? Sensing that Earphones Dude was about to blow his top, the Bucket Men crowded around him, putting heavy hands on his shoulders, and kept saying, “Fiesta, fiesta,” and “Holiday, holiday,” trying to slap on a bit of context at the last minute. As if that would somehow justify their shitty treatment of this person. As if Earphones Dude, upon hearing their rationale, would calm down and laugh it off.

“Oh it’s a fiesta! In honor of someone I may not necessarily have any respect for whatsoever! Of course! Carry on! Go on, drench me with another bucketful; my earphones haven’t completely conked out in the name of your demi-god just yet!”  

And even if Earphones Dude actually were a practicing Catholic, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he’d be okay with having his morning all but ruined. (Aside: It would be interesting if an actual Catholic nun were walking down the street at that time. Would they have doused her, too? I mean, if there’s anyone who fully believes in the potency of commemorating St. John the Baptist, wouldn’t it be her? Coincidentally, are all the people wielding buckets bona fide, practicing Catholics?)

And herein lies the biggest problem about religion: It gives you license, or at the very least gives a powerful illusion that you have license, to be a supreme asshole. It can be used to justify your getting to the office soaked in canal water. It can also be used to justify flying planes into buildings teeming with innocent people. The same reasons people give for annoying but tolerable inconveniences can be the same reasons people give for genocide and war.

If only getting soaked at inopportune times were the sole downside to religion. But it’s not. It gets much, much worse than that.

I don’t know how Earphones Dude’s ordeal panned out, but I’d hazard a guess that he just threw his hands up and walked away, leaving the other men to continue with their one-sided water war, far too exasperated to deal with a bunch of dicks playing the faith card. And while I’d fully understand why he’d do so, I think it’s high time we took a more active approach, such as being firm and unwavering in our insistence that one religion should not be favored over any other, and not turning a blind eye to those of a particular religion when they decide to be inconsiderate, self-righteous, and outright horrific people.

Image from fineartamerica.com.

Posted in Personal, Religion, Secularism, Society3 Comments

Bishop Conflates Censorship with Secularism, Settles Nothing

ConflateIn an article published in CBCP for Life, Bishop Broderick Pabillo said that the “church hierarchy is entitled to speak and express its opinion on public policies that could affect the welfare of the majority.”

I don’t see anything wrong with this statement. Nor should anyone. What I don’t like is how the article says that this obvious sentiment — that the clergy can criticize the government — somehow “settles the debates pertaining to the constitutional provision on the separation of the church and state.”

What the bishop has done is conflate disallowing criticism of the government with enforcing secularism. Throughout the article, both Pabillo and the writer quoting the bishop make it seem as if secularism asks the Church to keep silent on political matters:

“The separation of the church and state does not imply that members of the clergy are not allowed to criticize the mishaps of politicians in governing the public. We are allowed to criticize them for we are citizens of this nation, too. As Filipinos, it is just right and fitting for us to point out what is wrong in our government… If we would remain silent, we are not doing our rightful duty as citizens of this nation.”

Again, no one is asking the clergy to end their criticism because it is proscribed by secularism. This is not what the public debate on secularism is about.

What secularism advocates ask for is not Church silence but government neutrality. A Church leader, like any other Filipino citizen, is free to say whatever he wants about politicians or policies, however religious or theocratic it sounds.

But if secularism is to be respected, public officials must not do the same. Their words and actions must be secularly motivated — motivations do not privilege one religion above others — or at least appear to be.

What this means is that a public official is not prevented from being motivated by religious convictions whenever they fulfill public duties. But they owe the public — which may or may not share their private convictions — secular justifications for their political actions. “Because my bishop/Bible says so” will no longer do.

This is why many conservative politicians must now resort to secular arguments — based on non-religious reasoning and supposedly scientific evidence — to further their religious agenda.

Although the motivations of these arguments are primarily religious — which is often evident in how little reason and science are actually involved — they can at least be debated legislatively, countered with other secular arguments, and tethered to consequences in the real world that all citizens can appreciate, regardless of religious affiliation.

That politicians make an honest effort to behave politically as though they had no religious bias: This is really all that secularism requires. Unfortunately, many politicians still act like sectarian Church preachers intstead of secular public servants.

This patent sectarianism is really what secularists want to correct. By making it seem like secularists are instead asking to silence the Church, Bishop Pabillo and the article writer cast not only secularists but secularism itself in a bad light.

Pabillo (and the article writer) hasn’t settled any debate on secularism. But he has started a small one in my mind: Either Pabillo doesn’t understand secularism, or he doesn’t want others to.

Posted in Politics, Religion, RH Bill, Secularism1 Comment

Filipino Freethinkers Meetup, Sunday, June 23, Amici Greenhills

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Location: Amici, Caramia 101 Connecticut cor. Missouri Sts., North East Greenhills, Greenhills

Google map: http://bit.ly/ZGblCZ

Date: Sunday, June 23, 2013

Time: 3:00 – 5:30pm

Topics:
-When are societal issues not fair game for entertainers?
-Independence Day Topic:
For better or worse, what has the Philippines contributed to the world?
-What will it take to normalize the topic of female masturbation?

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

RSVP here: https://www.facebook.com/events/129673313906941/

Posted in Meetup0 Comments

Love is Thicker Than Water (But Not True Semen)

Andy_Gibbq_(2)Former CBCP President Oscar Cruz has said that LGBT weddings are OK, but there’s a catch: Lesbians can only marry gays, gays can only marry lesbians, and the rest can only marry someone from the LGBT community if the other party has a different set of sexual organs:

May a lesbian marry a gay man? My answer is ‘yes’ because in that instance the capacity to consummate the union is there. The anatomy is there. The possibility of conception is there.

Aside from having the right pair of genitals, Cruz mentioned two other requirements for couples: capacity to consummate the union, and the possibility of conception. Many commented with the same questions: What about love? Is marriage just about sex? What about straight couples who cannot have children?

This led a fellow freethinker to write a satirical article about Catholic marriage, reporting that the Church will now integrate a sperm count in the wedding ceremony. I hope that few would miss the fact that this is satire. But no matter how satirical, I don’t think it comes close to how absurd the official Church position is. I’ll get to this shortly, but first, a reminder: The following is not satire.

Correcting Cruz

First of all, I’m surprised that Cruz got an important detail wrong, considering he is the judicial vicar of the CBCP National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal. Possibility of conception is not a requirement for marriage. Or stated another way, sterility is not a marital impediment:

Can. 1084: §3. Sterility neither prohibits nor nullifies marriage, without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 1098. (The marriage contract can be invalidated if one of the parties is dishonest about their sterility.)

Although Cruz was wrong about sterility, he was right about impotence. Couples who want to get married must have the capacity to “consummate the union”:

Can. 1084 §1. Antecedent and perpetual impotence to have intercourse, whether on the part of the man or the woman, whether absolute or relative, nullifies marriage by its very nature.

So sterility is OK, but impotence is not. But this was not always the case.

Cum Frequenter and True Semen

In 1587, Pope Sixtus issued a papal document known as the Cum frequenter. (Again, this is not satire.) In the document, Pope Sixtus said that because eunuchs cannot have intercourse, they shouldn’t be allowed to marry. This was interpreted as saying that for men to have proper marital intercourse, they must be able to produce “true semen.” True semen, as it was first understood, meant that it contained a crucial element that could only come from the testicles: sperm. In other words, even sterility was an impediment to marriage.

Scientists soon discovered that the male ejaculate contained not only sperm but other stuff as well. According to Dorland’s Medical Dictionary, semen is “composed of spermatozoa in a nutrient plasma, secretions from the prostate, seminal vesicles and various other glands, epithelial cells and minor constituents.” So it could be argued that sperm, although often found in semen, was not what made semen “true.”

The uncertainty on what constitutes true semen led the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to allow marriage involving men who had legally imposed vasectomies. It was only in 1977 when the CDF declared with certainty that canonical potency “does not necessarily require anything in the ejaculate that has been produced in the testicles.” True semen need not have sperm.

What’s Love Got To Do With It

But if sperm is no longer crucial, what is? Three things: (1) an erect penis (2) penetrating a vagina and (3) secreting true semen. The reason for this, however convoluted, is easy enough to explain. When a married couple successfully procreates in the Church-approved way, all 3 things are present. Therefore, all 3 things are essential in every sexual act — even though it may not necessarily lead to procreation.

So even though sterile couples cannot have children when they have sex, the fact that they’re having sex in the same Church-approved way that fertile couples do makes their intercourse valid.

Unfortunately, the first requirement — an erect penis — rules out the Church-approved way for impotent men. And the fact that there has to be one penis and one vagina rules out the Church-approved way for same-sex couples.

It’s also worth noting that even fertile couples who do not ever plan to have children are not allowed to marry. This, together with the other rules I’ve discussed reveal the Church’s true understanding of marriage: nothing more than a license to have sex. It doesn’t matter to the Church how much two people care for one another. Love may be thicker than water, but not true semen.

Posted in Politics, Religion2 Comments

CBCP Adds Sperm Count to Marriage Ceremonies

MANILA, Philippines — Following Archbishop Oscar Cruz’s benevolence in allowing a lesbian woman and a gay man to marry each other under the auspices of the most Holy Roman Catholic church because “The anatomy is there. The possibility of conception is there”, Bishop Jose M. Ilya of the CBCP’s Jesus All Knowing Of Life Tribunal told the assembled press that Catholic marriage ceremonies will now include a sperm count at the altar to ensure that the marriage will result in procreation.

“Before the Catholic church puts two people together in holy matrimony we must ensure that the couple can actually procreate, even if they are a gay man and a lesbian woman, because procreation is the only reason ever for people to marry. We will ensure this even if the couple is straight, and not just for the gay and lesbian couples who wish to take up Archbishop Oscar Cruz’s kind love offering. As guardians of morality, we have to be consistent in our morals. Why do you think we’ve stood by biblical morality for so long?”

Responding to a question on whether this practice discriminates against couples who cannot conceive, Bishop Jose M. Ilya said, “Perhaps, but along with my colleague Archbishop Oscar Cruz’s allowance, I see this as the dawn of a more equal Catholic church. Instead of just discriminating against the gays, the Catholic church will also be discriminating against the straights, hence equality.”

He continues, “Besides, infertile couples who are already married will be grandfathered in. Well, obviously they still can’t be grandparents but, well, you get what I mean. I mean, they’re already married right? It’s not like we can do anything about an existing marriage that is based on love and not on making life. I mean, we don’t even allow divorce.”

The flustered Bishop Jose M. Ilya quickly concluded the press conference by leading a beautiful prayer espousing couples not to marry out of love and commitment to each other but for their mutual baby making.

sperm-wedding

While this is a satire piece, the actual doctrines of the Catholic church regarding conception and consummation in marriage is actually more absurd. Damnit Catholic church, stop standing up my satire pieces.

Posted in Satire2 Comments

Lab Letters Issue 16: The Spinning Face Illusion, The Dawn Bird, and Real-life Automail

Lab Letters Issue 16: The Spinning Face Illusion, The Dawn Bird, and Real-life Automail

Hello there! For this week’s Lab Letters, I’ll tell you all about illusions, a dino-chicken, and a really cool hand.

Let’s get this science micro-post rolling!

 

The illusion that can’t fool schizophrenics

 

Before watching the video, let me first tell you that the gently rotating face is a convex one – when it turns over, you get to see the other (concave) side. And yet, even if you’re aware of this, your brain still succumbs to the illusion that makes it appear as if the face is convex too – and is spinning the other way. This is because of how human brains work – we have bottom-up processing, which deals with sensory input (i.e. what we see); and top-down processing, which involves previously gathered information (i.e. what we expect to see).

However, it seems that for schizophrenics, a conflict between their bottom-up and top-down processes causes them to be immune to the illusion – they don’t get fooled like the rest of us. Scanning the brains of normal and schizophrenic people revealed differences in how their brain regions interact: the visual areas (bottom-up) and the top-down areas of schizophrenic brains aren’t as well-connected as those same areas in healthy brains. Without the top-down process prodding them to see the face as convex, they end up seeing the image for what it really is.

 

Top-down processing allows the brain to render the ambiguous H/A letters correctly so that even though the letters look the same, they still makes sense in context. (source: wikimedia.org)

 While it’s tempting to conclude that schizophrenics are good at “keeping it real” because their brains aren’t fooled by spinning faces, it is important to keep in mind that symptoms of schizophrenia include hallucinations and the inability to distinguish reality. The lack of cooperation between brain regions is just a part of a complicated story.

 

Move over, Archaeopteryx

 

The specimen is 50 cm long from beak to tail. (source:  T. Hubin/IRSNB)

A newly discovered fossil in northeast China has been found to be 160 million years old, predating the famed Archaeopteryx, widely known as the first bird, by 10 million years. Named Aurornis xui (aurora = dawn, Latin; ornis = bird, Greek; xui = Xu Xing, Chinese paleontologist), the fossil was bought from a local dealer and was later verified in Belgium.

Dawn bird, artist rendering. (source: Emiliano Troco)

Archaeopteryx may have been unseated as the oldest bird specimen, but much of what defines a bird is still based on its features. An older specimen doesn’t exactly mean an overhaul, but it affords a larger view on how prehistoric birds have evolved. Nature abstract found here.

And finally…

Meet Nigel Ackland.

 

(source: bebionic.com)

In 2006, he was working as a precious metals smelter when he got into an accident involving a blending machine. His right forearm was crushed, and it had to be amputated. He tried out a couple different prosthetics (hooks, claws) before getting fitted for the bebionic3, the “world’s most advanced cybernetic limb”. He recently went to the Global Future 2045 Congress, a conference for futurists and engineers and the like, where he showed off his arm to a swarm of attendees.

 

Here he is showing the different settings and preset grips for his hand, and then pouring himself a cold one.

 

Here he is tying his shoelaces and responding to viewer questions (yes, he can flip you off. Cybernetically!). AND, his wrist spins 360 degrees. How about that, normal puny-handed humans?

Ackland is loving all the attention, and he says having a bionic hand makes him feel human again.

 

Well! I’ll see you again next time for another FF LL. Good night everybody!

Posted in Science0 Comments

Meet a Freethinker: Bede Daniel Garcia

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 Bede Daniel Garcia from the Filipino Freethinkers Davao Chapter. Bede has been a skeptic since secondary school. He is a registered nurse currently working at Davao Doctors Hospital. He is also a Naturalist, and a Secular Humanist

Bede Daniel Garcia1) How would you define a freethinker?

The basic gist of being a freethinker would simply mean to think outside the boundaries of dogma, religion and tradition — to not accept “truths” simply because they were handed down to us by those in authority. We are always guided by logic, evidence and sound reason.

If we are presented with situations where we are tasked to take sides or to voice our opinions, we take into account facts and evidences. We do not merely go with our gut feeling that is purely based on our biased emotions. On the contrary, we sometimes set aside our emotions to focus on cold hard evidence even though it may sometimes be against our own stand.

This is a freethinker, ever growing and changing. Science, and the world, changes and so must we and our opinions of the things that happen around us.

2) What belief system do you subscribe to?

I am a secular humanist and an avid naturalist. I subscribe to the fact that everything has its own natural and logical explanation. I focus on the things that are truly important in life and the lives of others like relationships, science, and politics, to name a few.

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

I get the funniest reactions from people who put together religion and morality. The moment I say I’m an atheist, they would immediately think I’m evil and an antichrist. No amount of explanation can save me from the harsh and vicious verbal attacks (peculiar, because it usually comes from supposedly religious and pious people).

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

This is when I can shout out loud “At last! I’m not alone in this universe!” It’s difficult to converse with narrow minded individuals, especially if it does not agree with their belief system. I am not saying that all freethinkers are open-minded because I’ve met some that aren’t. But it’s just nice to know that I can have a conversation with a person and not feel persecuted or ostracized.

5) What are your thoughts on euthanasia?

This is a very sensitive subject. Its handling and execution depends on several reasons (prognosis, finances, etc). In my opinion, if the reasons for euthanasia are valid, then I am okay with it. But with regards to its execution on myself, here are my thoughts. I will, in the near future, prepare a written directive to remove the responsibility of “pulling the plug” from my loved ones. I plan on stating in this directive that if my prognosis is poor or my financial state cannot support my hospitalization, then I would hereby donate all working organs to those in need and my body to an educational institution for study. At least, even in death, I can still be useful.

6) What keeps you calm from stress in work?

I cannot really remove stress from work, but I can divert my focus. I sometimes spend my “alone time” helping people and enjoying the company of colleagues and friends.

7) How do you react when patients mainly thank god and the prayer warriors instead of thanking the physicians, the nurses and support staff who provided the expertise, the medicine, the bedside care, and the true and tangible solutions in a difficult time?

Since we live in a predominantly religious country, it is a given that a lot of people would first thank their supernatural deity before thanking us humans. I was once enraged by this notion. It did not make sense to give thanks to something that barely lifted a finger, and to forget those who truly helped. But as I matured, I realized that this was of least importance. Appreciation is a plus in our line of work. So I just give myself a pat on the back and learn not to hunger for recognition in my chosen vocation. I also realized that if I constantly clamored for recognition, wouldn’t I just be like the god that created humans in order for them to worship him? Isn’t that narcissistic?

8) How has freethinking helped you value life more?

When I had a gradual transition from a theist to becoming an atheist and to embracing freethinking, I initially felt lost, thinking that one day, I will be gone and only memories of me will remain. But I had to look at the brighter side of things. I have come to accept that my body is vulnerable to a lot of factors, that time is indeed limited. This has become a catalyst which has pushed me to accomplish things I did not think I could or would do: running a half marathon, completing a triathlon, exercising, and building friendships, relationships, and the like. Life is temporary, so live life.

9) How would you react to comments pertaining to their belief when consoling family members of a patient who just died?

Death of a family member is never easy. It is but human nature to call upon someone in troubled times. As a freethinker, I gather support from loved ones. I hang on to the notion that there are people around me who can help me and that is sufficient for me. For the religious, it is automatic for them to cry in pain to their deity. I, for one, am not militant regarding my atheism. I respect their practices so long as they respect mine. If a family member has just died and a relative cries to their god, then I will respect that. I will, however, remind them that I’m here to help them cope if they wish to talk to someone. Respect begets respect.

Posted in Davao, FF Chapters, Meet a Freethinker1 Comment

From Bibles to Baboy: The Problem of Christian Privilege

From Bibles to Baboy: The Problem of Christian Privilege

In reaction to student outrage at the distribution of Bibles in University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) by its Office of Student Affairs (OSA), its Chancellor, Rex Cruz described the incident as merely the “giving away [of] freebies.” Several apologists had similar reactions, saying that students were free to refuse the Bibles. In his interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Chancellor even suggested that they throw the Bibles away if the students didn’t want them.

Still others invoked the Christians’ right to freedom of religion. Indeed, Christians are free to express their religious views and evangelize, even in UP. In fact, one of the key features of the religion is that they spread it all over the world through proselytizing. This tactic has been so effective that Christianity, in all its flavors, has become the de facto state religion of many nations, including our country for the past 400 years.

Christianity has enjoyed a hold on the majority in our country for a long time. So long that many Christian Filipinos seem to be unaware that they share this land with non-Christians. There is an embarrassing lack of empathy from many Christians that leads them to say statements like, “you don’t have to take the Bibles if you don’t want them.” This lack of empathy is so fundamental that the government can go around distributing Bibles and it would still be treated as a non-issue.

 

The government gave Bibles away, that’s the problem

Yes, of course, students can refuse the Bibles. Though I’m sure that if they threw them in the trash en masse, that would suddenly make the story into one about sacrilege and persecuted Christians. The issue is not about Christian doctrine. The problem is that government officials distributed Bibles. And, based on reports, the director of OSA Leticia Afuang directly preached about the values of Christianity to incoming freshmen.

The mere fact that a person of authority gave religious materials to subordinates already implies coercion. It doesn’t matter if they were told they could refuse. These were students, and freshmen at that. A superior gave them a document. It is not the same as a street preacher giving away Bibles. You can ignore the preacher without fear of consequences.

It doesn’t matter if the OSA intended no harm or threat. It doesn’t matter if they wouldn’t really care if the students threw the Bibles in the garbage. There will always be the lingering fear that disobedience will lead to punishment, precisely because of the power dynamic between student and school administrator.

This power dynamic is the very reason OSA distributed the Bibles. OSA gave the Bible distribution activity credibility. It gave it the weight of the state University behind it, making students more receptive. There is a reason The Gideons (the apparent Bible donors) did not distribute the materials themselves and in their own event. Even on campus grounds with proper permits, that wouldn’t be a violation of secularism. Instead, a public office endorsed and distributed a sectarian document. I’m sure their intentions were good, but it cannot be glossed over that it is far more effective to have the University itself distribute the Bibles.

 

“You don’t have to read it!”

To apologists, the problem always seems to be with non-Christians being whiny than Christians abusing their power.

“Why don’t they just throw the Bibles away? They don’t have to believe! Nobody is forcing them to convert!” These are statements that can only be said by people blinded by privilege. The Christian majority don’t ever need to worry if their interests are considered. They are always the standard.

As excellently put by David Gaider, privilege is when you think something isn’t a problem just because it isn’t your problem. Christians, especially Filipino Christians, don’t ever have to face the prospect of having government officials give away copies of Bertrand Russell’s “Why I Am Not A Christian.” They don’t ever get mandatory school-sponsored lectures on the irrationality of the doctrine of redemption. Non-Christian problems aren’t their problems, therefore non-Christians can’t bitch and moan about these non-problems.

Consider Pol Medina Jr and his long-running Pugad Baboy strip. He wrote about the hypocrisy of Christians and their bigotry against lesbians and gays, all the while taking their money in exclusive private schools. For the strip that named St. Scholastica’s College as an example, the Philippine Daily Inquirer promptly apologized for Medina and suspended his strip. Though Medina did himself apologize, he also resigned from the Inquirer, after 25 years of publishing there.

Catholics complained that Medina’s comic was offensive. And yet, and yet, nobody from the Inquirer ever told them, “you don’t have to read it.” Catholics don’t have to read the comics section of the Inquirer, and they don’t have to read Pugad Baboy. Of course, that won’t satisfy them. Medina must suffer. He needs to be put in his place as a critic of Christians.

What’s worse is that the Inquirer is a private enterprise where “you don’t have to read it” would actually be a legitimate answer. UPLB is a public university. Our taxes pay for its operation. It is an institution that should reflect the secular principles, if not practices, of our nation, as a nation of both Christians and non-Christians.

 

May I have my rights, please?

Continuing with Gaider’s view on privilege, privilege is the luxury to not understand. Though the term is usually used in feminist contexts, the concept is quite appropriate here. The Christian majority can live their lives worry-free, not understanding what non-Christians have to deal with. While, non-Christians are always reminded to be sensitive to Christian beliefs.

The problem of Christian privilege prevents many Christians from seeing that secularism protects them as much as it protects non-Christians. If Christians could empathize with the minority, they would see that religions being equal in the eyes of the government protects their rights, rather than curtails it. Since Christians will be in the majority for the foreseeable future, it isn’t their problem, yet.

I don’t really know how to appeal to the empathy of Christians to at least consider the rights of the minority. If we had a properly functioning government, I wouldn’t have to.

Posted in Religion, Society9 Comments

“Who’s Got Game?” Steven Pinker vs The Pickup Artist

In 2010, I wrote an article called, “In Defense of Sedouchers.” The initial assumption made in my last article was, “if you’re being yourself and it hasn’t been working, you should either change yourself or, at least, tone down qualities that scare people off.” “Insanity,” after all, as Einstein said, “is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

However, after I encountered Steven Pinker’s notion that romantic credibility is a necessary component in long-term commitments. I had to re-evaluate my position.

Transformation, or at least education is the rational course of action when one finds difficulty establishing romantic relations. Seeking out information that would allow an individual to develop and convey personal qualities that are universally accepted as attractive, or implement a method that would result in attraction, is a rational response.

A study done in Oxford called “The Dating Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Emerging Science of Human Courtship,” examined two texts written by the most prominent representatives of the practice of “game” and argued that many of these claims are in fact grounded in solid empirical findings from social, physiological and evolutionary psychology.

Does it really have to be THIS complicated?

 

However, the idea of subscribing to a rational method, a scientific one even, in order to improve one’s chances of finding a suitable mate is frowned upon as being “manipulative,” the premise being that romance and love, in order to be authentic, has to come from an irrational place.

Cognitive Scientist Steven Pinker, in a conference in 1998 called Der Digitale Planet, implies that, “There’s actually a rational component to romantic attraction, basically, smart shopping. As anyone who’s been in the single scene recently will attest: Love is a kind of market place, where all of us, at some point in our lives has been in search of the richest, best-looking, nicest, smartest person who will settle for us.”

Now, if romantic attraction is actually a rational decision, wouldn’t a rational method of creating romantic attraction be a rational course of action? This is where Steven Pinker and the Pickup Artists would disagree. Pinker’s idea of romance applies the Theory of Paradoxical Tactics, a principle that suggests, “A sacrifice of freedom and rationality can paradoxically give and agent an advantage in promises, threats and bargains.”

He believes that, “it is almost always irrational to make a lasting commitment to another person (because based on the law of averages, you’ll eventually meet someone better), the sensation of love must be dramatically irrational in order for people to pair up at all.” And, in fact, it is the display of irrational behavior and decision-making that would legitimize the promises made when people commit.

Why Commitment is Problematic

Pinker suggests that romance is a kind of promise to spend eternity with someone, and sacrifice the opportunity to be “with someone else.” What will stop a rational person from breaking the romantic promise when he or she finds a better “option?” Therein lies the problem.

Pinker says:

“In the case of romance, since you have to set-up house with the best person you found up to a given time, by the law of averages, someone better is bound to show up in the future. The only question is, “when?”… At that point, a perfectly rational person would ‘drop you like a hot potato.’ On the other hand, since you are also a rational agent in this hypothetical scenario, you can anticipate that and you would never have agreed to the promise to begin with anticipating that it would be in the interest of the other party to break it sooner or later.”

However, if every person would approach a relationship from such a perspective, there wouldn’t be any commitment at all. So, what compels completely rational individuals to actually commit to each other? Here’s Pinker’s paradox:

“The solution is that if you don’t decide to fall in love for rational reasons, perhaps you’re less likely to decide to fall out of love for rational reasons. And the very involuntariness of romantic love serves as an implicit guarantor of the promise. It’s one of many examples in which a lack of freedom or rationality is paradoxically an advantage in situations of negotiation between two intelligent parties.”

The Problem of Romantic Authenticity

This is where PUA material, from my POV, should inspire suspicion. There is never, in the PUA, any desire to lose one’s freedom or rationality for the sake of making an implicit guarantee. In fact, one of the most counter-intuitive pieces of advice it regularly gives: “Do not pursue the girl you are in love with.”

It’s a concept called “Oneitis.”

Oneitis is considered “a ‘disease’ (hence the ‘itis) where a man is stuck on one girl and feels that she is ‘the one,’ usually to the detriment of having any romantic relationship with her.” Here’s a link for more information on oneitis. Also, If you have oneitis, here’s how to cure it.

A person with oneitis is not thinking rationally and currently has a distorted concept of who the object of attraction is. The assumption is that if a person yields to his current perception, the oneitis will fall short of his ideal.

However, if the intention was to reach a certain level of irrationality that would compel people to “pair up,” isn’t the oneitis exactly the person one should go after?

But the PUA has a more rational approach than what Pinker suggests:

The rational agent recognizes that the implicit romantic promise is an irrational impulse that causes irrational behavior. So, it is in the best interest of a rational agent to provoke the irrational impulse in his partner while maintaining rationality in himself, or to provoke “romance” without yielding to it himself. That sounds highly manipulative, but isn’t the point of reason, control?

If the rational agent was given this option, this power, to provoke irrational devotion, would it not be the best choice? Irrational people, after all, have little concern for guarantees. Irrational people are also willing to accept lopsided arrangements. The person who can maintain his rationality (the person who isn’t in love) can decide the parameters of the interaction.

And that is exactly why PUA material advocates for avoiding the oneitis.

That’s also why I think there are some things wrong with PUA culture. Many of these methods emphasize control, and do not approach the romantic interaction in good faith.

The Problem of the Modern Romantic Medium

Another concern Pinker raised was, “why the emotions tie up the body as well as the brain.”

He says:

“When we’re in the throes of passion, romantic or otherwise, we show it. We blush, we blanch, we tremble, we sweat, our voice croaks, we get expressions on our face and this has long been a puzzle in physiology. I think one explanation is that we are giving a credible signal that our current course of action is not under the control of the voluntary circuits of the cerebral cortex…”

In other words, when we are passionate, our body communicates our passion to add credibility to the romantic gesture.

However, the current mediums of communication, those in popular use today, social media & texting, are mediums where physical signs of romantic credibility are absent. To make matters worse, “the unique idiosyncratic properties of the individual,” in the age of blogging, is highly inauthentic and mostly synthetic.

Heather Sundell, in her article, “You’re Someone’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl, And You Have No Idea” shares her experience on being a creep magnet:

“I tweet, post status updates, and maintain a blog on a daily basis. It makes perfect sense that strangers could genuinely feel like they know me personally, but it’s still weird that these boys projected their manic pixie dream girl fantasies on me based on my social media persona.”

The problem of the current romantic medium is that romantic credibility and authenticity is not possible online or in text because the romantic medium of communication is both physical and irrational. However, the cultural habit of constructing an online identity actually accelerates the romantic process.

Heather Sundell writes:

“Broken down, it’s totally easy to see why guys would look at my silly photos, read my twenty-something blog posts, see my witty 140 character quips, and project that I am their quirky dream girl fantasy. They see this fun girl full of endearing imperfections, who isn’t particularly serious about life, because that’s who I’ve told them I am. I couldn’t have constructed a better character in an indie romantic screenwriting class.”

So, it’s not uncommon to have a person fall in love with an inauthentic identity, pursue her through a flawed medium, and sound completely inauthentic and creepy. The availability of alternative forms of communication (text, chat) might also contribute to people’s apprehension for face to face meetings, making romantic credibility almost an irrelevant aspect of seduction.

On the Necessity of a Rational Foundation & the Psychology of Courtship (Or why one should, in PUA terms, “Play it cool”)

The premise of the paradoxical advantage is that one could increase one’s influence over a person by displaying an irrational surrender to the romantic impulse. Pinker’s own words:

“If you were to whisper in your lover’s ear, ‘You’re the nicest, smartest, best-looking, richest person, I’ve been able to find so far.’ It would probably kill the romantic mood. The way to a person’s heart is to declare the exact opposite. To say that the emotions elicited by the unique idiosyncratic properties of the individual, ‘I can’t help falling in love with you’ and to emphasize how involuntary and irrational it is. ‘I want you so bad and it’s driving me mad, etcetera, etcetera.’”

However, I think this conclusion is flawed. If one were to approach an interaction with irrationality, one will be, as I was by a recent acquaintance, viewed as completely insane and scary (I’m so sorry I freaked you out!).

Pinker’s theory appealed to me because after not being in “the game” for a long, long time, the entire prospect of having to remember “the rules” and follow them seemed like a very tedious process. In other words, I wondered what would happen if I actually expressed what I felt for a girl without any concern for “the game,” or for reason.

In a sense, I also wanted to prove that the romantic pursuit is not dead, & that it’s okay to go “love at first sight” in 2013. I wanted to see if the theory of paradoxical tactics, which I like to refer to as “the anti-PUA,” worked in the real world. I decided to try and ignore the social and cultural conventions of the romantic pursuit.

The premise was simple. If I felt strongly for a particular person, I’d go for it. No fear. No method. No game. Just go.

However, I discovered the hard way that my irrational expression of interest inspired nothing but loathing and repulsion from the desired person. My irrational behavior also alienated some of my friends, primarily because my behavior was viewed as “crazy shit.”

I was, in Bon Jovian terms, “Shot down in a blaze of glory.”

The hypothesis I developed from this experience is that one must first establish a strong propensity for rationality (play it cool) before one demonstrates a compulsive surrender to an irrational romantic impulse. The transition from being cool & rational to being “romantic,” when exhibited by a rational agent (Keyword: Rational), is the very thing that yields a paradoxical advantage in that it would imply a romantic promise.

Conclusion

Irrationality, as Pinker implied, has a place in modern romantic interactions. But it is not something I would advise, especially at the beginning of an interaction.

I also doubt if the credibility implied by one’s compulsion for irrational romantic behavior is as valuable as the bargaining position achieved when one withholds romantic interest until the other reveals it first.

My conclusion: “If you have to be something, be rational.”

 

 

Follow me on Twitter: @dustincelestino

Posted in Personal, Philosophy, Science2 Comments

An Open Letter To The UPLB Office Of Student Affairs

June 10, 2013

From: Filipino Freethinkers-UPLB et al

To: Dr Leticia A. Afuang, Office of Student Affairs Director, UPLB

CC: Dr Rex Victor O. Cruz, Chancellor, UPLB

Good day,

It has come to our attention that your good office has once again distributed (or at least, caused to distribute) free bibles at the recent campus tour for UPLB freshmen. As far as we are aware, this has become a tradition for you, Dr Afuang, since you took charge as free bibles were given out too during last year’s freshman convocation. This was on top of blatantly preaching Christianity during this year and last’s leadership training seminar, which is required for all student organizations seeking university recognition to attend, among other breaches of secularism that have been reported to us.

This is completely unacceptable. Unless you still are not aware, the University of the Philippines is a secular institution. And this fact is explicitly defined in Sec 3 and Articles 177 and 452 of the UP Code, which we are sure you are well aware of.

For surety, we have included excerpts here:

  1. Sec 3. Purpose of the University.As the national university, a public and secular institution of higher learning , and a community of scholars dedicated to the search for truth and knowledge as well as development leaders, the University of the Philippines shall perform its unique and distinctive leadership in higher education and development.

  2. Art 177. Members of the teaching staff enjoy academic freedom; Provided, however, That no instructor in the University System shall inculcate sectarian tenets in any of the teachings, nor attempt either directly or indirectly, under the penalty of dismissal by the Board of Regents, to influence students or attendants at the University System for or against any particular church or religious sect or political party.

  3. Art 452. Any priest, preacher, or minister of the gospel of any religious denomination may speak before student groups or organizations of the University; Provided, That in every case the written permission of the President/Chancellor shall have been previously secured; and Provided, further, That speakers do not discuss questions which might provoke dissension in the University.

While you may argue that the bibles were donations or that receiving them was voluntary anyway, these are but poor excuses. Secularism means fair treatment and privilege to all religions, or to none at all. It’s either you give out free scriptures of all religions or you don’t give any. If this isn’t clear enough, let us stress that there is simply no place for religious instruction and proselytizing within the university, academic freedom notwithstanding.

The university should be a place for students to explore and criticize new ideas and long-held beliefs. It is no place for certain churches to exploit this opportunity to increase membership in the pretense of saving souls or “making disciples.” Let us let students find their own way to faith or disbelief. This is what academic freedom means.

In light of this, we petition the following:

  1. That Dr. Afuang issue a public apology for all accounts of breaches in secularism and violations of the UP Code;
  2. That the UPLB administration conduct an investigation regarding the events cited and take disciplinary measures if found necessary;
  3. That the Chancellor issue a memorandum reminding all staff and faculty of these portions of the UP Code, and prohibiting any university-sanctioned event and academic class to include religious elements that may, directly or indirectly, be meant to proselytize or otherwise influence students’ religious views.

[Signed]

Rafael Navarro

President

Filipino Freethinkers-UPLB

[Signed]

Ma. Patricia San Jose

Vice President

Filipino Freethinkers-UPLB

[Attached signatures of petitioners]

—-

Yesterday’s events were not the only breaches of secularism that have occured inside the university, and by the looks of it will most probably not be the last. There are many more incidents involving many more UPLB instructors. Let us make this petition a reminder that state universities are best kept secular. Surely, UPLB has got more ways to acquaint its freshmen than lambasting that it endorses particular churches, right?

Note: A similar incident also happened last year under the auspices of Dr Afuang. Several students have testified to us that it is usual for Dr. Afuang to preach Christianity in her classes, no matter how unrelated it is to the subject matter. A followup article is scheduled to be posted documenting these first-hand accounts.

Update: A pastor from Victory Christian Fellowship UPLB has spoken on the matter in defense of Dr. Afuang, the Office of Student Affairs and the Bible-giving brouhaha.

Editors note: two images concerning Victory Christian Fellowship have been removed from this article since publishing. Those two photos are not relevant to the secularism violation of the Office of Student Affairs (in UPLB).

Posted in Religion, Secularism, UP Los Baños27 Comments

Vote for the Filipino Freethinkers at the ISIF Asia Awards!

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Love what the Filipino Freethinkers have done so far? Then vote for us in the Information Society Innovation Fund (ISIF Asia) Awards and help our organization continue fighting for secularism and human rights!

WHAT IS ISIF ASIA?

“The Information Society Innovation Fund (ISIF Asia) is a grants and awards program aimed at stimulating creative solutions to ICT development needs in the Asia Pacific region, placing particular emphasis on the role of the Internet in social and economic development in the region, towards the effective development of the Information Society throughout.”

WHY THE FILIPINO FREETHINKERS DESERVE THE AWARD:

“Winning this award will go a long way in helping us in our work toward a truly secular Philippines, ensuring that human rights are prioritized over religious sensitivities.”

To vote:

1) Please sign up for http://isif.asia.
2) Enter your email and password.
3) Check your email for confirmation, then click on the link given.
4) Click the ‘Vote’ button on this site: http://isif.asia/projects/projects/view/341

Posted in Advocacy, Announcements, Press Releases0 Comments

Lab Letters Issue #15: Dead Man Walking, Space Jewelry, and a Glowing Cockroach

Lab Letters Issue #15: Dead Man Walking, Space Jewelry, and a Glowing Cockroach

Hello and welcome once again to Lab Letters, FF’s weekly science micro-post! This week we’ll be checking out the walking dead, an ancient bead, and new animals discovered in 2012.

Let’s go!

Interview with a dead man

Graham is suffering from Cotard’ delusion, a rare neurological condition that makes people believe that they have died or have lost their organs, and thus no longer need to eat and take care of themselves. The illness first manifests as depression and hypochondria, proceeding to delusions of negation (“my brain doesn’t exist anymore”) and severe depression.

 

Sorrowing Old Man (‘At Eternity’s Gate’), van Gogh, 1890.

Patients are severely depressed and cannot be reasoned with: even when doctors pointed it out to Graham that he was having a conversation with them, he still thought his brain was fried or didn’t exist, and that it was pointless to seek treatment. (image source: wikimedia.org)

 A peek inside the activity in Graham’s brain revealed very low brain activity – similar to someone asleep or under anesthesia. And yet, he was wide awake and getting annoyed at his doctors who keep on insisting that he’s not dead. Neurologists think that understanding the illnesses of those specific brain regions – the frontal and parietal ones – would give them a better understanding of how consciousness arises in the mind.

 

 

The iron bead was found in Gerzeh cemetery and dated to be from 3350 to 3600 BCE. (image source: Open University/University of Manchester)

This bead is 5000 years old and made out of a meteorite

The tubular iron bead was discovered, among other artifacts, in 1911. It was found to have an unusually high nickel content, initially thought to be a smelting accident. Now it looks like it came from outer space. UK meteorite scientists used an electron microscope and an x-ray CT scanner to settle things, and yes – extraterrestrial origin confirmed! In addition to the high nickel content, the bead also showed Widmanstätten patterns, characteristics of a metal that cooled very slowly (several million years-type of slow)… much like a meteorite inside their parent asteroid.

Researchers said that they are keen on testing other Egyptian artifacts as well. Although, this isn’t the first time a relic was found to come from outer space. Folks, meet Iron Man.

 

 

And finally…

Here are the top 10 new species of 2012, as compiled by the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University. Taxonomy, the science for classifying living things, developed when Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus devised a two-name system of identification in his 1735 book Systema Naturae. The list was released to coincide with Carolus Linnaeus’s birthday on 23 May, 1707.

Featuring…

 

A glow in the dark cockroach! Pro: you’ll be able to see it in the dark. Con: you’ll be able to see it in the dark. (image source: Photograph: Peter Vrsansky & Dusan Chorvat/ASU)

 

and

 

A fabulous lyre sponge! Looks like a centerpiece, but is actually carnivorous. (image source: MBARI/ASU)

 

and

 

The social media lacewing! First posted to Flickr before it caught the eye of entomologists. #BugsOfInstagram anyone?

 

Full image gallery here.

And that is it! I will see you next week for another FF LL!

 

Posted in Science1 Comment


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