Archive | July, 2013

Meet a Freethinker: Nancy Siy

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 Nancy Siy. Nancy is a full-time (and currently the only) Jivamukti Yoga teacher in Manila. The job is part-DJ, part-masseuse, part-preacher, part-stand-up comedian, part PE teacher, and part-therapist, which makes it all the more interesting. To take these classes that are dubbed “the wild child of yoga”, visit www.manilajiva.com for schedules and details.

 

1081175_10152080842499638_860837329_n1) How would you define a freethinker?

A freethinker is someone who uses his or her own discernment, experience, logic, and set of values to live the life he or she chooses. The operative word is choice. A freethinker chooses the life that he or she lives. He or she was not pressured or brainwashed or tricked into it. A freethinker is ready to change his or her position when new information or experiences arise.

 

2) What belief system do you subscribe to?

I am spiritual but not religious. By that, I mean that I believe our experience of this human life has to transcend our own ego, selfish desires, and fleeting sensual pleasures in order to be meaningful. Our lives are all entwined by matter, by consciousness, by our choices. There is more to life than the cycle of making money and spending it. Spirituality means that I take action to make this world a better place. Spirituality means that I am aware of how much power I have in creating this world we live in. Spirituality means that I believe we are all in this together.

 

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?

When I said I do not prescribe to any religion, I was asked “Where do you get your morals?” And I said “How can you question my morals? I’m vegan. My morals tell me it is wrong to kill.”

 

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

I did not grow up with a religion to begin with, so it was never a big deal to me. I didn’t have to “come out”. My freethinking friends and I discuss issues that are not very popular, like the morality of the choices we make – what we eat, being childless by choice, adoption (human or animal), etc.

 

5) What made you decide to be a vegan?

When it hit me that I was part of the problem, that my actions are causing so much fear and suffering which are completely unnecessary, I felt that I can no longer participate in this system of oppression, and that made me vegan.

 

6) What do you think is the connection between veganism and freethinking?

In a society where consuming animals is normal, one has to be a freethinker to veer away from tradition and norms and grasp the concept of speciesism. Just as religion is imposed on young children, so is the idea that animals are inferior. Just as non-conformity to a religious society can put pressure on an atheist, so can veganism alienate one from “normal people”.

 

7) Why do you think people who are otherwise rational and compassionate still not vegan?

Veganism is not just about what one chooses to eat or wear or support. Veganism is a paradigm shift not only of how we view animals but also of how we view ourselves (our power, our choices, our priorities). There are people who may understand the ethical arguments completely, who feel awful when they watch animals being slaughtered, but they do not make the behavioral change because they have not yet made the connection of just how powerful they are. The ego swings the inferior-superior pendulum. “It’s only me, one person, I can’t make a difference anyway” fall into the inferior while “I cannot be inconvenienced to think about others” fall into the superior side of this ego swing. To become vegan, one has to get over oneself, one’s ego, and see that this is “not about me”. It’s not just about logic. It’s about caring. It’s about compassion. It’s about being able to empathize.

 

8) What is Jivamukti Yoga?

Jivamukti Yoga is a yoga practice that teaches unity, oneness, and the connection with all beings. In a Jivamukti Yoga class, it is emphasized that although we use our bodies to come into contortionist-like positions, we do it because we use our body as a prop to get to know ourselves better. We can observe our reactions, our tendencies, our thoughts, our patterns. We become the silent witness. Our movements become a meditation in which we see ourselves. Jivamukti Yoga teaches nonviolence/compassion as the most important practice of yoga. Other elements included are devotion/transcending the ego, meditation/observation, sound/music/vibrations, and the intellectual study of yogic texts. There is a focus of the month every month, and the breadth of topic is broad, from Tat Twam Asi (You are That/God) to Sacred Geometr,y to sex, to aparigraha (non-greediness), to overcoming negative emotions, etc. Jivamukti Yoga, more than any other yoga style I have tried, is a communication platform to raise consciousness. Jivamukti Yoga teachers boldly talk about issues like veganism, environmentalism, and social activism. We draw inspiration from enlightened people (like the Buddha) and peace makers (like Martin Luther King) alike. I would sometimes read excerpts from literary works, sometimes play audio clips by Alan Watts or Neil deGrasse Tyson, or play songs by the Beatles or Bob Marley, or songs written about  heroes of peace like Gandhi.

 

9) How have you pointed your skeptic rational mind at the concept of chakras, and how do you reconcile this skepticism with the spirituality involved in yoga?

Yoga does not contradict science. The terminologies are different, but the concepts are the same. Yoga uses words like “prana” which is basically energy or “chakra” or energy centers. For example, the “manipura chakra” or power center is energetically located in the solar plexus, which deals with the pancreas and liver. The concept of this power center can be “translated” in layman’s terms as the center that deals with what we consume (what we eat) – the digestive system. These seemingly esoteric concepts are very practical if you dig deep into it.

Yoga is actually very practical, because it is a system that asks us to dig deep into the root causes – causes of our suffering, patterns, beliefs etc. I am spiritual not because I am not skeptical. I am spiritual precisely because I am skeptical of what is unreal. It is unreal to think that human beings are the center of the universe. It is unreal to think that reality only exists within our very limited perceptions of time, space, and dimension. The way I see it, scientists explain while yogis experience. Movies like “What the Bleep Do We Know” explore very yogic concepts. When Neil deGrasse Tyson said that our atoms are made up of the particles of stars – carbon, nitrogen, oxygen – that is what yogic teachings refer to when they say we are all connected and that “the universe is in us”.

DISCLAIMER: The opinions in this post are of a personal nature, and do not speak for the Filipino Freethinkers as an organization.

Posted in Meet a Freethinker0 Comments

Meet a Freethinker: Marisse Galera

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 Marisse Galera. Marisse has been a skeptic since she was nine. She is currently taking up AB Psychology and AB Development Studies in Ateneo de Manila University. She’s also a bipolar and an ambivert.

 

559470_494119647274104_2061695098_n1) How would you define a freethinker?

I believe that freethinking has more to do with how a person has arrived to his belief or lack thereof. It is the capacity to employ genuine critical thinking and introspection. I think some people only label themselves as atheists or non-believers simply because they think it’s cool and they’ll automatically gain the “freethinker” label. Some even go as far as labeling anything religion-related as bad; as though the epitome of stupidity is having a religion. Not for me, though. I think a freethinker is someone who is ready to be proven wrong by the empirically provable evidence which may be available. The word “free” indicates that we are not chained by any single definite school of thought or belief.

 

2) What belief system do you subscribe to?

I am an agnostic deist. While I believe that there may be some form of a higher being that exists in the universe, I believe that such a higher being need not be as powerful as some religions claim. I think that such a being should still be bound by the limitations and laws of science and nature. I am agnostic because I think that religious and metaphysical claims are unknowable.

 

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?

Well, my mom found out at roughly the same time that I was bipolar and a non-believer/freethinker. She told me that the reason I was bipolar and that I experienced depressive episodes was that I did not believe in God or did not have Christ in my life.

 

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

I’ve never been out of a Catholic school. Ever. I guess the only breath of fresh air I ever experienced was going to Ateneo (which, albeit Catholic, is highly liberal) and belonging to a freethinking community. Having to go to a dogmatic Catholic school meant that my “controversial” and “heretical” ideas were usually shot down with verses from the bible, or claims to seniority, instead of empirical data and logical argumentation.

FF is a kind of community where I can openly express thoughts without fear of being judged. Likewise, other people’s openness in expressing their ideas gives me other ideas to complement my own, enriching my mind.

 

5) Why did you choose to double major in Psychology and Development Studies? What are your goals for after graduation?

I chose to double major in Psychology and Development Studies because I think that, generally, most Social Sciences like Economics, Sociology, and even Development Studies view people merely as pegs in the machine we call society, and give very little premium to the contributions of the individual psyche to the collective. Nonetheless, I still really want to study the society and how it works, which is why I chose Development Studies. I also want to study how I can try to generate change in communities, which is exactly what DS does.

Truthfully speaking, my heart is with DS more than it is with Psych, I just believe that DS in itself is incomplete because, while it studies the collective, it does not study the welfare and impact of the individual nor does it tap into collective consciousness in a psychological sense.

After graduation, I would like to work for a year with an NGO or company that works with communities, and try to employ a psychological facet in community impact assessment for projects. I’d like to do research. After that, I would try to look for a scholarship in Europe and take Masters in Development Studies or Social Psychology.

 

6) What is it like being a freethinker in a theology class that you’re required to take? Do you question your theology profs when they become dogmatic?

For one, I’ve only had one Theology class in Ateneo so far, and, honestly speaking, it is one of the most liberating experiences I have ever had. No kidding. It is far from dogmatic. In fact, it is one of the classes where I had been forced to think most critically and evaluate Christianity as I knew it–as my old Catholic school taught it to me. My Introduction to Catholic Theology class made me see the beauty of Christianity and even, at times, made me consider going back to Catholicism. As for questioning my professors, in general, I think the thing with Ateneo is that professors welcome questions–especially ones that required critical thought.

Posted in Meet a Freethinker0 Comments

Today I Will Justify My Sexism Using God

While we write a lot about the shitty things the Catholic hierarchy tries to impose on people because of their particular interpretation of God, that’s not to say that other sects of Christianity are not busy trying to get humans to be horrible to each other because bible bible bible bible.

Take this example of a campus minister associated with Victory Christian Fellowship, Joppet Tan, who posted this casually sexist idea on his Facebook account in response to seeing an advertisement on a train.

joppet-tan-sexist
#hashtags make you #cool

Joppet Tan thinks that because God God bible bible God bible God, women should be powerless when it comes to initiating relationships going so far as to admonish women with, “God designed you to be pursued”.

This kind of thinking, that women are “different” (lesser) from men when it comes to relationships is a prevalent one in this strain of Christianity. These are the ideas that this minister is trying to get his flock to accept.

This is the fucking backwards ass “get-back-in-the-kitchen-woman” kind of idea that needs to be fought vigorously to put all genders on an equal footing. And yet here in 2013 we have a pastor trying to wrap this monumentally shitty idea, that women are lesser than men, in a religious veneer to try to get people to accept it.

Joppet Tan, it says something horrible about your God when you say that He explicitly made women to be objects of pursuit for men while denying women the right to do the same to men.

It reveals something vile about your views of women when you think that their pursuit of men would mean they’d be stuck chasing men for the rest of their life. Or it shows how little you think of men that you think they can’t accept being pursued by a woman.

And if you’re so blinded by faith that you’re even unable to accept a different gender role for women in a heterosexual relationship, I can’t even imagine you would consider the idea of women pursuing other women.

Joppet Tan’s Facebook post has quite rightly received a backlash for pushing this idea, but did he learn anything from all of the replies he received?

joppet-tan-martyr

Nope. Of course he’s a martyr. So the lesson here folks is that if you want to justify your shitty behaviour WHILE protecting it from criticism, use the bible bible God God bible God.

Posted in Religion, Society22 Comments

Filipino Freethinkers Meetup, July 21 (Sunday)

Location: Holy Trinity Church, 48 Mckinley Road, Forbes Park, Makati
Google map
Date: Sunday, July 21, 2013
Time: 2:30pm – 5:30pm

RSVP on Facebook

FF_Parents_071713

Discussion topics
– Ender’s Game
– Raising Freethinkers
– Not Having Kids
– Raunchy topic: The ethics of incest

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

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When Does Life Begin? Revisited

It seems that every “debate” (a term I use very loosely) on the Reproductive Health Law will always devolve into dogmatists bellyaching about one question: When does life begin?

This happened during the debates in Congress and it is happening again in the debate in the Supreme Court. In both cases, government officials have voiced out that it was not for politicians and non-scientists to decide on the matter. And yet, we can fully expect that this question will be raised over and over even after the Supreme Court decides on the constitutionality of the Reproductive Health Law.

I had written a piece on when life begins three years ago outlining a scientific attempt at answering the anti-choice challenge. In the following, I will revisit and clarify the obscurantism of conservatives on the question. There is a lot of ambiguous language that conservatives employ to muddy the real issue and their intention in asking the question in the first place. Most confusing of all is how they conflate “life” with “personhood.”

 

Who cares about life?

Life is an ill-defined concept even in the science that studies life, biology. There are many attempts at defining it, but mostly we have the pornography standard. That is, we know life when we see life. Some attempts at defining life include the following criteria: having structural organization, being able to produce energy by decomposing organic matter, being able to respond to stimuli, being able to reproduce. These are not to everyone’s satisfaction, so the debate goes on.

But, just because something is alive, does not mean it is worthy of protection. We eat living things. Even vegans and vegetarians eat living things. We kill living things, such as bacteria, parasites, and pests. Clearly life has begun for these organisms, but we shed no tears at their demise.

Perhaps there is something unique, then, to human life? Consider that even the Catholic Church allows human beings with functioning bodies but incapable of conscious experience, what we would call “brain dead,” to have their organs extracted for the benefit of other humans. John Paul II called these brain dead humans as having lost the “integrative capacity” to have a unitary “personal self.” From this, we know that the specialness of humans can’t possibly be from just having the DNA or the body of a human being.

 

Who are the people?

The critical concept of “personhood” is at the core of the whole disagreement. Life is not equivalent to personhood. We do not treat life in general as important as we treat persons. Judging by the Church’s acceptance of harvesting organs from the brain dead, permanently terminating the organism’s metabolism, it is okay to end the metabolic life of a human being… as long as that human being is brain dead. We can see that the Church does not see the brain dead as persons worthy of equal protection.

So, it is persons that are important. We shouldn’t be asking when life begins. We don’t really care about life. We care about persons. But what makes a person? Clearly a brain dead human is no longer a person, even by Catholic standards. Where’s the difference between brain death and brain life? Well… the brain.

We consider brains as critical in calling a person, a person. A person is capable of suffering, of having aspirations, of planning for their future. But, can only humans be persons? Well, no. Non-human animals can have highly advanced capacities for conscious experience. Dolphins and whales are known to have deep self-awareness, so much so that they are considered “non-human persons.” And yet, you won’t see the Catholic Church hunting down whaling vessels even though they say they defend personhood.

Licensed under Creative Commons, Vince Smith

The trouble is, sperms, eggs, and embryos have no brains. They are incapable of conscious experience. Fetuses, with their just developing neural systems, are certainly less capable of conscious experience than even the pigs and cows we casually slaughter. So, if sufficiently complex brains make a person, then sperms, eggs and embryos are not persons! Easy, huh? Well, not so fast, says the Church.

There is a whole debate on the potential of future personhood that the Church employs to argue that since embryos can become persons then they must. This line of argumentation does not interest me, so I will not waste too much time on it. But I will at least explain why it is uninteresting. The argument from potentiality is a slippery slope that terminates on absurdity. If you take it to its logical conclusion, every proton in the universe has the potential to become part of a person. Every carbon atom in your body came from some other thing. As technology progresses, we will be capable of not just producing humans from embryos, but from any cell. We are doing this now with induced pluripotent stem cells—turning one kind of cell into another. Then every cell has the potential to become a person. You won’t be able to pick your nose and scrape skin cells without committing a mortal sin. So, when does the Church choose to terminate this slippery slope? At embryos—exactly where they wanted it to. How convenient. So embryos are worthy of protection because they have the potential to become persons. Although other things can become persons, embryos are special because we say they’re special. Talk about assuming your conclusion.

 

Confused? The soul is the key!

This all can be confusing, but bear with me, dear reader. There is a key to this puzzle that will make everything fall into place. The key is—the soul.

There is a lot of dubious mental gymnastics used to justify the complicated and inconsistent position of the Church on life and personhood, but they are all clear when you consider the doctrine of the soul. The Church believes on faith that the soul, crafted by God and unique to every human being, enters the embryo during fertilization. Dolphins are not persons, even though they are quite intelligent and have self-awareness, because they don’t have souls. Only humans have souls. And the soul leaves the body once it has ceased to have a functioning brain. This is what John Paul II meant by having lost the “integrative capacity”—the soul and the body are no longer unified. The soul will now float out into the spirit world with all the angels and trumpets and baby saints.

This all leads to questions that seem to yield no answer. If embryos gain their souls during fertilization, then do identical twins share one soul? Would it be okay to kill one twin since the same soul still resides in the other body? If two embryos fuse and form a chimeric embryo, do two souls share one body? Then is marrying a chimeric person actually bigamy?

Yes, this all seems silly, but this is what the Catholic Church actually believes. This is the basis for all the silly reasons they give out in court. If we are to have an intellectually honest discussion about the RH Law, it is about time to end the “When does life begin?” facade. All this talk about life is actually just conservatives beating around the bush. What they really mean is, “When does the soul enter the embryo?” But they can’t admit this, because it is not a medical, or even legal, question. It is wholly a theological one—a question that the government has no business answering.

Image Credit: Vince Smith, licensed under Creative Commons

Posted in Philosophy, Religion, RH Bill, Science1 Comment

Refuting Tatad’s Petition

As you’re reading this, the Philippine Supreme Court will be having the oral arguments regarding Republic Act 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, aka the RH Law.

One of the people expected to make an appearance at the proceedings is former Senator Francisco “Kit” Tatad, a man who has been frequently touted by the Catholic Church as one of its champions in opposing the RH Law.

Tatad has figured prominently in the opposition to reproductive health in the years leading up to the law’s passing last year. He’s also among the petitioners that was the cause for the SC to impose an SQA on the RH law.

In this article, we’ll be taking a look at the Tatad petition, since it makes use of the most common arguments that the RCC loves to resort to in opposition to reproductive health. Tatad starts off his argument by citing every Filipino’s right to personal and family privacy:

Articles 11-13

…Which is not an issue at all, since this is also what the pro-RH side of the Philippines supports – the right of privacy of every family regarding their sex lives. Tatad’s points on a family’s right to birth control methods of their choice are equally sensible:

Arguments 20-23

Once again a fair point. Birth control should be a decision left up to each family. It is a decision that cannot be forced upon them, either by the state, or anybody else. However, shortly after making several valid points on the rights of the Filipino family, the petition starts treading water…

Arguments 27-30

*Sigh*, where do we begin?

First off, there is nothing in the RH law that forces families to choose a specific birth control method. Quoting section 2, sub-section h of the RH law:

(h) The State shall respect individuals’ preferences and choice of family planning methods that are in accordance with their religious convictions and cultural beliefs, taking into consideration the State’s obligations under various human rights instruments;

What the RH law will provide is family planning medicine and education, and leave the decision on which method is ideal for each family’s circumstances up to the family itself. Accusing the RH Law of forcing a family to choose is no more valid than a creationist accusing public education of “forcing” kids to go against their religious beliefs by teaching evolution in science class.

If your religious beliefs say contraceptives are wrong, then don’t take contraceptives. Nothing in the law says you must pop the pill just because you sat through several sex education classes. How hard is that to understand?

Secondly, so what if the Catholic Church considers contraceptives “evil”? Just as they state that government cannot impose specific beliefs, Tatad and company cannot impose Catholicism on other people who do not agree with their hypocritical moral stance on reproductive health.

Which brings us to the next point…

Argument 32

What is ironic here is that in demanding that the SC junk the RH Law because it goes against their religious beliefs, Tatad’s petition is basically denying the RH law to everybody else in the Philippines.

Okay, fine. So Tatad wants the law junked because it goes against his religious beliefs. But what about the Protestant churches who support the RH Law? What about the Muslim community? What about his fellow Catholics, the majority of whom are also calling for better access to reproductive health education and medicine?

It’s become clear at this point that the message Tatad sends is that he only cares about shoving HIS religious dogma down the throats of everybody else who does not agree with him.  This is not the first time people like him pulled a stunt like this, sadly, as the cases of Manila and Ayala Alabang show.

This intent becomes especially obvious when you consider that the sex education program being proposed is targeted at public schools – where religious groups are not allowed to impose their dogma.

Moving along, the petition gets even more brazen in its religious intent:

 

Arguments 36-38

Does Tatad have any empirical evidence proving that introducing contraceptives “destroys” morality? A study that directly correlates crimes rates with increased access to birth control education and contraceptives would be a good start.

On the other hand, the studies we do have available show conclusively that lack of access to RH medicine and education has resulted in a rising trend in teen pregnancies and STDs. But since it’s women suffering – and the RCC’s known for disregarding their welfare on more than one occasion – I guess that doesn’t count.

And as if Tatad should be one to talk about “deep divisions” and “moral torment”, given that it was his side of the RH discussions that has been demonizing supporters of RH, by spreading outright lies and slander, to resorting to outright threats of violence.

This is no different from a bigot claiming that making gender equality a social norm is provoking “moral torment” because now everybody’s calling him out for being an ass.

Then again, as the former press secretary of the Martial Law years, I guess Tatad knows a thing or two about inflicting moral torment on society.

These are just some of the more glaring flaws I managed to dig up from Tatad’s petition against the RH Law. Any and all feedback or additional insight are always welcome here in the comments thread, or over at our FB fanpage.

Posted in Advocacy, Politics, Religion, RH Bill1 Comment

Meet a Freethinker: Bhavan Karnani

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 Bhavan Karnani. Bhavan is an Indian-Filipino with an adventurous streak. 

388178_10150596892046718_1132500027_n1) How would you define a freethinker;

A freethinker is someone who uses logic and reason to dictate his or her beliefs. Tradition, authority and personal biases are left out of the equation. It may be impossible to be perfectly unbiased but at the very least, there should be an attempt to eliminate it.

2) What belief system do you subscribe to;

I’m an atheist. I stopped believing in god and Hindu mythology late in high school or maybe early college, I don’t remember exactly when. I continued to believe that Hindu philosophy was probably correct although I never really decided which specific branch of Hindu philosophy I believed in. (It is possible to be an atheist Hindu because there are Hindu philosophies that reject the idea of a creator god). Eventually I realized I was being a hypocrite by rejecting the idea of god due to lack of evidence but refusing to reject concepts like karma, reincarnation and the idea that consciousness is the only absolute reality. These concepts are common to most, if not all branches of Hindu philosophy and I didn’t have evidence for them either so I dropped these beliefs as well.

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; and

I usually tell people I’m an atheist if they ask about it. I don’t remember getting any interesting responses. Oh wait, once someone asked “what if god is real and you’re going to hell?” Never mind, on second thought, it wasn’t that interesting.

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

I have learned a lot from discussions with other FF members and I’ve met a lot of awesome people from all walks of life at the meetups, many of whom are now great friends.

5) What was it like as a kid, growing up Hindu in a predominantly Catholic country?

It was alright although I did get teased a lot about the fact that I didn’t eat beef. That was annoying. Some people would try to preach to me and others made negative comments about Hinduism more out of an attempt to insult than to provide a genuine criticism of the religion. That wasn’t very nice of them. Those people were few though, most people didn’t care much that I was a Hindu.

6) You like cosplaying as Jesus Christ. What’s the most interesting experience you’ve had doing this?

I don’t have to cosplay actually, I just walk around with my hair down and people randomly comment things like “uy, si Jesus!” Once, I entered a store and the clerk went “nagulat ako pagpasok mo, sabi ko ‘si lord, dumating!'” (I was shocked when you walked in, I thought ‘the lord has come!’). A barber once jokingly protested my decision to cut my hair saying, “sayang, malapit na ang mahal na araw pwede kang ipako sa krus”. I’ve also had a few people tell me they dont believe in me, to which I always reply, that’s ok, I don’t believe in myself either.

7) Why don’t you eat mammals? Does it have to do with your growing up Hindu?

I was vegetarian for a year when I was a kid for ethical/religious reasons until my parents convinced me to start eating seafood and eventually chicken again. They thought it would help me gain weight, also it was hard to find vegetarian food in restaurants. It’s weird, because now my mom is a vegetarian. I do think that eating mammals is generally worse than eating fish as mammals have more highly developed nervous systems and consequently are more self aware, have greater emotional capacity and experience more suffering. Birds have highly developed nervous systems as well so I should probably stop eating chicken again at some point.

Posted in Meet a Freethinker0 Comments

A Leap Of Science

A Leap Of Science

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Photo from Sabrina's Stash

Photo from Sabrina’s Stash

I believe in miracles, and it is spelled S-C-I-E-N-C-E.

I have spent the last few hours reading articles and watching videos about the latest scientific breakthroughs. I have focused on research and technology that alleviates human suffering, compensates for human disabilities, and prolongs and grants a better quality of life.

One such miracle that is very evident and available for online readers is called HyperText Markup Language (HTML), the “language” of the internet which allows you to simply click on the links I give and be instantly whisked away to other websites I have used as source material.

To those of you reading this on paper and ink, you too can access this miracle by going online, not by prayer. Unless, of course, you pray for a laptop (or tablet) to drop down from heaven and onto your lap, automatically turn on, hijack your neighbor’s wifi signal, fire up its web browser and go to my article.

The Deaf Shall Hear

In the meantime, let me tell you about 3-year old Grayson Clamp, who heard his dad’s voice for the very first time. That may not sound so spectacular at first, until you learn that baby Grayson was born without a cochlear nerve which transmits signals from the ears to the brain. In other words, there is no connection between his brain and his ear.

To get around the problem, doctors performed a cochlear implant, putting a chip in Grayson’s brain which allows him to receive and process those signals. The look on his face as he hears his father’s voice is priceless.

26-year old Amy Barber went through a similar operation and she was able to hear her six-year old son for the first time. Her aunt took a video and posted it on Youtube,  where it went viral.

The Blind Shall See

Diane Ashworth, a 54-year old woman from Australia, is the first recipient of a bionic eye transplant. The result isn’t perfect yet as the technology is still in the prototype stage but Diane can see flashes of light and shapes, which proves that her brain is now receiving some sort of signal from the device. Researchers in Israel are also working on such a device and in the near future, we may very well have functional bionic eyes that can enable even those born blind to see in full color.

The Lame Shall Walk (and tie shoelaces as well)

Prosthetics are nothing new and have been around for decades. Still, they are minor miracles in bringing back some sense of normalcy to an amputee’s life. What caught my attention was the degree of advancement in prosthetic development which blends with robotics. A company called Ekso Bionics has developed a robotic exoskeleton that allows those paralyzed from the waist down to walk. This was a boon to Jason Geiser who had a motorcycle accident and was told that he wouldn’t be able to walk again.

Hand prosthetics are a bit more complicated because of the fine-motor tuning involved. In the past, it was nearly impossible to create a bionic hand that could alternate between strongly gripping an object and holding it delicately (like holding an egg without breaking, or holding a pen and writing). However, 53-year old Nigel Ackland has shown off an advanced hand prosthesis that allows him to deal cards and tie his shoelaces, as well as make an omelet and open a beer bottle.

The Dead Shall Rise Again

39-year old Colin Fiedler was dead for at least 40 minutes being brought back to life with a cardiac support pump called the AutoPulse, which keeps the patient’s blood running through the brain and other vital organs as doctors administer medicine or shock treatment. The procedure has revived two other patients under similar conditions as well.

I have no doubt in my mind that science will continue creating, refining and delivering life-changing technology such as these in the years to come — and that they will become available to more and more people. Machines and electronics have become so prevalent and familiar to us that we fail to see the wonder in them any more.

Miracles are all around us, if you would care to open your eyes and see. They are brought about not by a leap of faith, but of science. And unlike other so-called miracles, they can be depended on to work again, and again, and again.

 

Andy Uyboco is a businessman, trainer and speaker. If you actually had a laptop or tablet drop on your lap from heaven, send me an email at [email protected]. Previous articles can be found at www.freethinking.me.

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