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Archive | May, 2014

FF Podcast (Audio) 39: Should Church Officials Return the Napoles Money?

FF Podcast (Audio) 39: Should Church Officials Return the Napoles Money?

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) 39 - Should Church Officials Return the Napoles Money?

This week, we talk about Father Ramirez, who allegedly received millions in stolen taxpayer money via Janet Lim-Napoles. Church officials, including Cardinal Tagle, have now come out in defense of the priest.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Posted in Audio, audio podcast, Politics, Religion, Society0 Comments

FF Podcast 39: Should Church Officials Return the Napoles Money?

FF Podcast 39: Should Church Officials Return the Napoles Money?

This week, we talk about Father Ramirez, who allegedly received millions in stolen taxpayer money via Janet Lim-Napoles. Church officials, including Cardinal Tagle, have now come out in defense of the priest.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Posted in Media, Podcast, Religion, Secularism, Society, Video0 Comments

The Irrationality of “Utang na Loob”

I. Invisible Debt

There is a uniquely Filipino concept that is often brought up when a person’s relationship with his or her parents is strained: “Utang na Loob.” It is the idea that a child “owes” his or her parents for providing him an education, clothing, shelter, comfort and love. Initially, I thought that this particular notion is unique to the Filipino experience. However, I’ve learned that there is a concept in the West that is quite similar. It’s called, “Invisible Debt.”

Huffington Post’s Ashley Ryan wrote the article “Free Yourself From Emotional Debt: Move Beyond Pain From the Past” in an attempt to differentiate invisible debt from regular debt. She writes, “We all know what debt is. Some of us, most of us, still have a few we’re paying off. Student loans, car payments, mortgages. But what about the unseen debts, debts that are invisible to the naked eye but instead live within our hearts?”

What she’s talking about here is the debt a person incurs from negative experiences. The father who walks out on his family, whose approval the child is still seeking; and the mother who was over-critical, so the child overworks to prove that he is worthy of her love are both examples of this sort of debt.

The Filipino version, however, is more insidious, especially when it involves an abusive parent. In many cases, not only does a child have to endure the fleeting whims of his or her parents (who may have had the best intentions, but don’t really know what the fuck they’re doing), the child is expected to be “grateful” as well for being provided basic needs.

The issue with “invisible debt” or “utang na loob,” as it has been discussed in many blogs, is that it has an unlimited cost. Unlike a common loan, one is never certain how much more has to be paid, or when the loan will expire. The question I am asking is, “Is it rational/ethical for a parent to bring up utang na loob?”

Before I continue, I would first like to mention that I don’t have terrible parents. In fact, I am very lucky to have been raised by well-meaning, understanding, mostly rational, human beings with only average imperfections. I’ve had conflicts with my parents, more or less, as much as the average human being has. I am grateful for everything that I have been provided. I just had to mention that, because in many instances throughout this article, I’m going to sound like an ingrate, especially as soon as I mention my position:

I am grateful that I have been provided an education, clothing, shelter, comfort and love. However, I do not owe my parents because they provided me these things. It’s a parent’s job to provide these things. People who can’t provide for these needs should not have children to begin with. These are basic children’s rights.

I believe that “utang na loob” has no place in the parent-child relationship. I think it’s inappropriate for parents to demand a return of investment. Parents should not ask payment for “products and services” they were supposed to provide their children for free.

Now, I know I sound like an asshole. Let me clarify. I intend to take care of my parents when they are old, but not because I owe them “utang na loob,” but because I love them. The problem comes when parents expect their children to love them eternally, by default, simply because they did what they were supposed to do as parents – raise their children.

According to the blog, The Invisible Scar, “A good parent offers unconditional love and support; an emotionally abusive parent demands unconditional love and support from his/her child.”

When parents decide to have children, they also decide that they will give a child, who can’t fend for himself, access to basic needs. Asking for a guaranteed return on the provision of these needs is like asking someone to sign a contract before he could read. The basis for accountability should always be choice. However, in the case of children and parents, only one party was involved in the decision making: parents chose to have children, but children didn’t choose to have parents. Why then should children be held accountable, why should they be held in debt, for choices that their parents made?

For those who don’t get it yet, let me point out the obvious: The “utang na loob” parents often bring up to emotionally blackmail their children is not only irrational & unreasonable, it’s also unethical.

Utang na Loob

II. Why is it unethical?

The notion of the “invisible debt” or “utang na loob” is a form of abuse. Not all forms of parental abuse are physical. There are things that a parent can do to cause severe psychological damage on the child. The blog, “Invisible Scar” defines psychological abuse as, “a pattern of intentional verbal or behavioral actions or lack of actions that convey to a child the message that he or she is worthless, flawed, unloved, unwanted, endangered, or only of value to meet someone else’s needs.”

“Utang na Loob” implies that a child was provided basic needs, not because he or she is loved, but because there is an expected return. “You owe us, therefore, you should pay us back.” This particular demand is irrational and cruel. It also turns love and affection into an economic resource. A child-parent bond is commodified by putting an invisible “price tag” on the relationship.

It’s very Catholic, in a sense, because it’s reminiscent of “Original Sin.” It’s a debt you didn’t earn, but it’s one you have to “try,” for your entire lifetime, to pay for anyway. Otherwise, you are a bad person. And like “Original Sin,” it will impose standards of moral perfection that you can never live up to. Whatever you do, you will always be a sinner until God decides that you are not.

Similarly, you will always have “utang na loob,” until your parents decide that you don’t. If you disobey an irrational demand, “Wala kang utang na loob.” If you select a partner your parents do not favor, “Wala kang utang na loob.” If you decide to move out sooner than your parents want you to, “Wala kang utang na loob.” If you disobey any of their wishes (whether or not these wishes are reasonable), “Wala kang utang na loob.”

But what is this “utang na loob” parents speak of? What are the parameters of this debt and how is this debt paid? The truth is it doesn’t exist. You do not owe your parents “utang na loob” for raising you. That’s a parent’s job. Some parents do the job well, and some parents don’t. Parents who do the job well deserve your gratitude and praise, but they are not entitled to your unconditional obedience. They can’t be allowed to make decisions for you as an adult, according to their desires, just because they did their job when you were a child. Your duty, if there be any, should be towards your own children if someday you decide to have kids of your own.

My parents deserve my gratitude and praise for being the best parents I could ask for. But, as an adult, I deserve to live my life according to my will, not theirs. “Utang na loob” is not a commodity a parent could trade to acquire a child’s unconditional obedience.

If there is anything that should demand obedience, it is not debt. It is reason.



Ryan, A. (2013, March). “Free Yourself From Emotional Debt: Move Beyond Pain From the Past.” Retrieved on May 26, 2014. From:

The Invisible Scar (2014, February). “The Silent Treatment [Types of Emotional Child Abuse Series, Part 1].” Retrieved on May 26, 2014. From:


Images Borrowed From:

Posted in Personal, Philosophy, Society6 Comments

Filipino Freethinkers Meetup – Sunday, May 25, 2014






Venue: 2nd floor of Bread Talk Promenade, Greenhills

Date: Sunday, May 25, 2014

Time: 2:30pm – 5:30pm

Google Map:



1. The Ethics of Gossip

2. Normcore []

3. Filming an Abortion []

4. Bowie, Banksy, and Copyright Absurdity […/bowies-takedown-of-hadfield.html]

5. Masturbation Month Part 2


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, and admission is free.

* Early birds get to play board/video/party games with the group.

* Look for the FF sign (or the group of smart, sexy people).

* There is no required age, religion, philosophy, or IQ level.

* Discussions are informal yet intelligent (most of the time).

* You don’t have to talk; you can just sit in and listen.

Posted in Meetup1 Comment

A Conversation with Richard Carrier

This week, we talk with the historian and philosopher, Richard Carrier. We talk to him about the evidence for Jesus’ historical existence (or lack thereof), whether God enjoys being gang banged, and Atheism Plus.

His book, On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt, will be out June 2014.

Watch his lecture, “Is Philosophy Stupid?” from Skepticon 6.

Conversations for a Cause is a series of interviews with celebrity freethinkers, part of an online donation drive to support ongoing Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) relief and rehabilitation efforts.

You may also download the video files here: Part 1 and Part 2.

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Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Posted in Philosophy, Podcast, Religion, Video0 Comments

Secular Morality and the Is-Ought Problem

The topic of morality has always fascinated the freethinker in me that I’ve been reading, writing, and debating about it for years. But what fascinates me most is the realization that just when I thought I had it all figured out, there remains a gap that just can’t be bridged.

My position had been that we can be good without God, and that science and reason are all we need to chart morality.

Today I no longer hold that position.

But not because I no longer believe that science and reason can answer the question why we act in ways that are considered good, but because science and reason simply cannot answer the basic question of what is “good.”

Richard Dawkins as well as other scientists have shown how evolutionary biology can explain altruistic behavior, why we help others when there is no obvious benefit to ourselves or even when it would actually harm us, but they fail to explain why altruism is “good” to begin with.

Sam Harris has shown how science can objectively measure well-being and flourishing, but he fails to explain why we “ought” to pursue well-being and flourishing in the first place.

This is the argument of the philosophical theists, which happens to be more challenging to rebut than those of the fundamentalists who say that the Ten Commandments or the Bible (or the equivalent holy book of their religion) is the true moral code. Not unexpectedly, whenever an atheist blogger criticizes religious morality and asserts that secular morality is better, philosophical theists would accuse him of attacking a strawman and go on to say that he utterly has no idea what he is talking about.

Any attempt at establishing a moral code not derived from religion inevitably runs into the is-ought problem, an unbridgeable gap between what is and what ought to be. For example, there is nothing in the statement “people are suffering” that allows for the conclusion that we ought to find ways to alleviate their suffering – even though it feels like the most natural, instinctive, intuitive, and “moral” thing to do. That may sound absurdly callous and inhuman, but there is also nothing in the statement “that is absurdly callous and inhuman” that establishes why we ought not to be callous and inhuman at all.

Philosophically speaking, there can only be an “ought” when such ought is inherent; oughts are not emergent, that is, they cannot be derived from an “is.” And, philosophical theists would contend, the only way to have a moral ought is to have it built into us by a creator: if God created us and laid down certain rules, we ought to follow those rules not because of the fear of eternal punishment or even out of gratitude for the gift of life, but because that’s what we were created to do.

While the term ought is currently used to indicate duty or obligation, its etymology traces back to “owe” and “own.” In other words, one could say that we ought to obey God (assuming he exists) out of moral duty because we owe him our lives and he owns us.

But then here comes the Euthyphro dilemma: “Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?” If it is the former, then there is higher standard of morality to which even God must adhere; if it is the latter, then there is nothing to stop God from giving arbitrary commands that are capricious and oppressive because whatever he commands will always be morally good, whatever that means.

The philosophical theist, however, addresses the Euthyphro dilemma by postulating that God is the good, or God = good, so he cannot therefore command anything that is not morally good, and at the same time he is not subject to a higher standard of morality because God is moral goodness itself.

The only problem with this argument is that the contention that “God is the good” is a bare assertion, a matter of arbitrary definition and not a universally accepted fact or a logical conclusion derived from verified premises.

722px-The10CommandmentsOne can imagine that a perfectly objective and binding moral code is something written by a perfectly moral creator and directly handed down to all humanity, that is, not through prophets or some self-proclaimed divine messenger.

This is where both religion and philosophical theism fall short. Religions cannot agree among themselves what God’s laws are or even who or what God is; philosophical theists, on the other hand, merely assert that there is a moral law not found in any holy book but somehow written in our hearts, but they fail to establish that it is our God-given conscience talking and not our own selfish manipulative wills considering that there seems to be no consensus among the hearts of men and women.

Philosophical theists like to boast that their morality is superior to secular ethics because it has an ontological base (i.e., God), meaning they have an objective basis for conceptualizing such moral system. They do have a point, but unfortunately such ontological base is simply assumed. Take away that assumption or challenge it by demanding proof and the base crumbles, leaving their morality hanging by the thread of a bare assertion.

Of course, philosophical theists like William Lane Craig would say that the existence of God is an altogether different debate, and that all they are claiming is that “if God exists, then we have a sound foundation for objective moral values and duties; if God does not exist, then we do not have a sound foundation for objective moral values and duties.” Craig himself pointed out that these are conditional claims, so until they conclusively win the debate on the existence of God and, more importantly, prove that God not only created us but indeed wrote his moral law in our hearts, theistic morality remains sitting on one huge assumption.

And while secular ethics also makes an assumption that well-being is good without explaining why it is good, it appeals to the moral nihilist which I seem to have become. With all this talk of the is-ought gap, I no longer use the term “moral” without qualifying it. Instead, I prefer to use the term “civilized.”

While civilized is a relative term particularly when used to refer to society (e.g., societies of decades past considered themselves civilized but some of their practices like discrimination are barbaric by today’s standards, just as future generations will surely have something to condemn about today’s norms), I like how civilized societies continuously expand their circle of awareness, granting rights to more and more displaced groups and individuals (and even animals), taking care of their well-being.

I may not be able to explain why we “ought” to be civilized, but it feels good to me as it apparently does to a lot of people – civilized people, that is, people who do not require an ontological base or demand to bridge the is-ought gap before deciding that it is the moral thing to do.

Eventually, the secularist will have to admit that his morality is not objective insofar as his moral values are not founded on something that transcends humanity. But this is not to say that his concept of right and wrong is determined by nothing more than the norms of society notwithstanding how civilized or compassionate a particular society has become.

Whether society matures or degenerates into a dog-eat-dog world where “might makes right,” secularism offers the following principle laid down by George Jacob Holyoake, who coined the term secularism: “Individual good attained by methods conducive to the good of others, is the highest aim of man, whether regard be had to human welfare in this life or personal fitness for another.

Such principle may not have an objective foundation in the sense that it is nothing more than one person’s assertion regardless of how many others may have intuitively come up with it on their own or how practical it may sound (e.g., personal welfare achieved to the detriment of others is often short-lived), but once internalized, it is a straightforward ethical code to objectively judge and guide people’s actions in an ever changing society. Opponents of secularism may easily point out that we have not established what “good” is, but it would take a lot of semantic acrobatics for them to argue that we cannot objectively define what welfare is.

Once we decide that we’ve had enough philosophizing over the is-ought problem in relation to the moral value of what we take for granted as good, we can focus on how to pursue our welfare by means conducive to the welfare of others. If you consider such pursuit good without obsessing on why we ought to pursue it, it can be said that you’re a compassionate, practical, and civilized person. But if you can’t subscribe to secular ethics because it lacks an ontological base – because there is nothing in the statement “people are suffering” that allows for the conclusion that we ought to find ways to alleviate their suffering – then congratulations! You are a philosopher.

* * * * *
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Posted in Philosophy, Religion, Secularism5 Comments

Women’s Autonomy in the Hands of the SC

The legal state of a married woman’s autonomy over her own body has been put in a strange limbo thanks to two recent Supreme Court decisions.

Image by Justin Vidamo

In the Supreme Court’s ruling on the constitutionality of the Reproductive Health Law, certain provisions were struck down as unconstitutional. While most of the RH Law was retained, one of the provisions struck by the SC puts women’s autonomy in a precarious position. The provision that the SC struck down was Section 23(a)(2)(i) and in their decision the court stated that it is unconstitutional to:

allow a married individual, not in an emergency or life threatening case, to undergo reproductive health procedures without the consent of the spouse;

In the Philippine context, this is especially bad for the wives in a (heterosexual) marriage. Over the course of the lengthy RH debates, we’ve heard many stories of women who could not undertake reproductive health measures because of pressure from their husbands.

Women should have autonomous control over their own bodies, even after they have entered a marriage. After all, it is the woman’s life that is at stake when they undergo pregnancy.

The majority decision from the SC to declare unconstitutional the spouse’s autonomy over their own RH decisions becomes puzzling in the light of a newer ruling from the SC on marital rape. In this ruling, the SC upheld a decision from the lower courts that rape within marriage is still rape, doing a good job in laying down local jurisprudence for future legal cases of marital rape. In the decision authored by Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes, he says in the final note that:

A husband does not own his wife’s body by reason of marriage. By marrying, she does not divest herself of the human right to an exclusive autonomy over her own body and thus, she can lawfully opt to give or withhold her consent to marital coitus.

Justice Reyes’ decision on the status of marital rape was consented by four other SC Justices. Among these five, Justice Reyes and Chief Justice Sereno were consistent with in voting that Section 23(a)(2)(i) of the RH Law is constitutional. Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Lucas Bersamin, and Martin Villarama Jr had voted it down as unconstitutional.

These two SC decisions on marital rape and reproductive health have put a strange tension to the legal question of women’s autonomy over their bodies.

On one hand, women in marriages don’t have autonomy over their own bodies when it comes to their own reproductive health decisions. On the other, they do have autonomy when it comes to deciding when to have sex in marriage.

In the marital rape ruling, the SC Justices have shown that they understand the importance of the human right to autonomy over your own body. It could even be said that three SC Justices have gained a better understanding about the importance of this right since the RH Law decision.

While RH groups won’t be appealing the SC rulings anymore, I hope future rulings on women’s autonomy follow the line of legal reasoning laid down by Justice Reyes in the marital rape case.

Posted in Politics, RH Bill, Society0 Comments

FF Podcast (Audio) 38: Filming an Abortion

FF Podcast (Audio) 38: Filming an Abortion

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) 38 - Filming an Abortion

This week, we talk about Emily Letts, an abortion counselor who filmed her own abortion and posted it online.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Posted in audio podcast, Gender Rights, RH Bill, Secularism, Society0 Comments

FF Podcast 38: Filming an Abortion

FF Podcast 38: Filming an Abortion

This week, we talk about Emily Letts, an abortion counselor who filmed her own abortion and posted it online.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Posted in Media, Podcast, Society, Video1 Comment

Your Memory is Fake

“Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind” is my favorite movie. I think it’s perfect. I’ve seen it almost a dozen times. What kept me watching was the premise of being able to erase selected parts of your own memory to get rid of traumatic events and people one would prefer to forget. I was also fascinated by the tragicomic notion of people, again, falling in love with the same people they paid the memory service to delete.


However, the premise of the movie relies on the notion that our memories of events are fixed. The movie portrayed memory as visual episodes that deconstruct as the process of memory deletion proceeds; meaning, there was something (a unit of memory, perhaps) to delete to begin with.

Recent experiments done prove otherwise. You don’t have to delete your memories, because they are not real to begin with.

Let’s have a quick thought experiment:

1) Try to recall a moment in your life when you were at the beach with friends.

2) Try to imagine being at the beach with friends.

Images that you imagine and images that you remember look and feel exactly the same. That’s because they are. Memory is malleable.

Trust Your Memory?

Jaque Wilson, from CNN, wrote the article, “Trust your memory? Maybe you shouldn’t.” This article was about experiments done by Elizabeth Loftus in her attempt to demonstrate how “fictional” our memory is.

The first experiment had to do with car crashes. She showed videos of different car accidents and asked people about what they remembered about them. She noticed how their recollection of the incident was influenced by what questions she asked.

When she asked “How fast were the cars moving when they smashed into each other?” instead of “How fast were the cars moving when they hit each other?,” people believed the cars to be moving at a much faster speed. When she asked “Did you see the broken headlight?” instead of “Did you see a broken headlight?” people were more likely to remember a broken headlight, even if there wasn’t one to begin with.

Needless to say, the information people gather after an event, greatly influences how they remember the event. When we try to remember an incident, we are not merely trying to “recollect or recapture old information,” we are, in fact, “fabricating or creating memories based on new information.”

In her Ted Talk (It’s a mind-fuck. Go watch it!), “The Fiction of Memory,” Elizabeth Loftus says, “Many people believe that memory works like a recording device; you just record the information, then you call it up and play it back when you want to answer questions or identify images, but decades of work in psychology has shown that this just isn’t true. Our memories are constructive, they’re reconstructive. Memory works more like a Wikipedia page. You can change it, but so can other people.”

To further prove how memories are fabricated, she wrote a research report on another experiment entitled, “The Formation of False Memories.” In this experiment, close family members of 24 students were asked to give them 3 real childhood memories of the student and 1 false one. The students were told that all 4 childhood memories were real. Some of them were even asked to provide details about the fake memories. 29% of the participants were able to recall, with detail, events that did not happen.


Two Kinds of Memory

So, how does this happen? You might be thinking, “Dustin, are you telling us that if someone told you that your name was Brad Pitt, and not Dustin, you would believe him?” No, I would not, but I would be very flattered. Also, that’s not how memory works, especially as it relates to what we know about ourselves and who we think we are.

There are two kinds of memory:

1) Semantic Memory – a record of facts, meanings, concepts and knowledge.

2) Episodic Memory – memory of experiences and specific events in time in a serial form.

Our idea of who we are, our identity, is based on both types of memory. However, since memory is malleable, so is our identity. Initially, it was believed that our semantic notions or knowledge of the self (“I am an asshole”) is based on episodic memories (images we can reconstruct that show us being “assholes”; e.g. bullying service personnel).

However, the experiments of Loftus reveal that it could also work the other way around. When we encounter new information (someone calls us an “asshole”), our brain cherry picks or constructs images that verify the information.

In other words, other people can change what you remember, and who you think you are. As Loftus says, “Memory works like a Wikipage.” And just like a Wikipage, it can be changed or updated today or tomorrow, and by anyone.

I’m usually skeptical about self-help products or advice. However, in my opinion, this information does imply that “optimism” and being around “optimistic people” will make you a happier person simply by compelling you to remember your life as mostly a positive experience.

Present stimuli influence memories of the past. How you remember things, people, places and events, is a reflection of your current attitude towards them.

I think Marcel Proust, in his literary masterpiece “In Search of Lost Time,” demonstrated the inherent complications of attempts at recollection. Remembering, in this work, is portrayed as elusive, artificial, and creative. There is a lot of emotion involved as well. One can never recall with complete objectivity, especially incidents that are emotionally charged. The very act of recollection is a creative endeavor.

We re-create our own memories very similarly to how a director would interpret a scene from a script. However, we don’t really stick to one interpretation. We constantly change the script and the style of interpreting depending on a variety of factors which include: our mood, new information about the incident, other people’s opinions, etc.

I would like to end this article with a YouTube video called “1 Scene, 9 Directors.” It’s a humorous take on how one simple scene could be imagined in very different ways. I think how our memory works isn’t too far off:



Garcia, B. (2012, February). “1 Scene, 9 Directors.” Retrieved on May 15, 2014. From:

Loftus, E. (2013, September). “The Fiction of Memory.” Retrieved on May 15, 2014. From:

Loftus, E. (1995, December). “The Formation of False Memories.” Retrieved on May 15, 2014. From:

The Human Memory (2010). “Episodic & Semantic Memory.” Retrieved on May 15, 2014. From:

Wilson, J. (2013, May). “Trust Your Memory? Maybe You Shouldn’t.” Retrieved on May 15, 2014. From:


Images Borrowed From:

Posted in Philosophy, Science, Society0 Comments

The ADD Apocalypse is Among Us!

The first issue concerning the supposed Attention Deficit Disorder epidemic is the skepticism surrounding it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of children diagnosed with the disorder has skyrocketed from 5% to 15%. In raw numbers, 3.5 million children are taking medication for the disorder; a massive increase from the 600,000 that took medication for it in 1990.

In an article written by the editorial board of The New York Times entitled, “An Epidemic of Attention Deficit Disorder,” pointed out how so many medical professionals benefit from the overprescribing ADD/ADHD medication, so much so, that it is becoming progressively difficult to find objective information regarding the nature of the disorder.

Mentioned in the article, “Prominent doctors get paid by drug companies to deliver upbeat messages to their colleagues at forums where they typically exaggerate the effectiveness of the drugs and downplay their side effects. Organizations that advocate on behalf of patients often do so with money supplied by drug companies, including the makers of A.D.H.D. stimulants. Medical researchers paid by drug companies have published studies on the benefits of the drugs, and medical journals in a position to question their findings profit greatly from advertising of A.D.H.D. drugs.”

Also from the The New York Times, Alan Schwartz wrote an article that makes a similar observation called, “The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder.” The article talked about Keith Conners, a doctor who’s been fighting to legitimize attention deficit hyperactivity disorder for more than 50 years, and his current attitude about the rise in ADD/ADHD diagnoses.

In the article, Dr. Conners was quoted to have said, “The numbers make it look like an epidemic. Well, it’s not. It’s preposterous. This is a concoction to justify the giving out of medication at unprecedented and unjustifiable levels.”

To make matters worse, ADD/ADHD medication is marketed as harmless, comparing its side-effects to that of aspirin. But there are potential dangers that are overlooked. In “An Epidemic of Attention Deficit Disorder,” it was mentioned that, “in rare cases, psychosis, suicidal thoughts and hallucinations, as well as anxiety, difficulty sleeping and loss of appetite.”

The Food and Drug Administration also warned that ADHD medications may, in rare cases, cause priapism – a prolonged and painful erection – in in males of all ages.

Add 3

A. Dopamine and Attention Span

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and neurotransmitters are chemical substances in the brain that are utilized to stimulate our behavioral and emotional functions. ADD/ADHD is a neurological dysfunction. It is associated with the brain’s chemical system rather than the social and emotional influences around us.

Research suggests that the impulse and behavior problems in ADD/ADHD could be caused by low levels of Dopamine in the brain.

In the article, “Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)” by Dr. Joseph M. Carver, it was mentioned that, “The impulse and behavior problems found in Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) appear related to low levels of Dopamine in the brain. When dopamine levels are normal, we can repress the urge to do or say something in public, grab something interesting on a desk, blurt out our opinion, or touch/poke someone who has just walked within our physical range. Low levels of dopamine in the brain make control of impulsive behavior almost impossible in the ADHD Child/Adult.”

Needless to say, if a person with ADHD is sitting in a classroom with a teacher holding a lecture and there is a fly on the wall, the fly on the wall is as equally important to him as the lecture. The impulse to notice it, or to touch it, or to playfully wonder if the fly understands the lecture, will be quite difficult for him to ignore because of low dopamine levels in his brain.

Naturally, the usual medication prescribed for people with ADHD are medicines that will boost Dopamine levels in the brain (e.g. Ritalin), to increase attention and to decrease impulsivity.


B. Other Causes of Dopamine Disorders

But to what cause can we attribute the sudden rise in ADD cases? In our introduction, it was suggested that medical professionals are eager to prescribe ADD medication. However, it can’t be the sole factor responsible for increased diagnoses. For one, people who were diagnosed probably went to get treatment, or had their children treated, for attention deficit. The fact is that more and more people are finding it difficult to focus. However, lack of focus and dopamine disorders are not exclusive symptoms of ADD and ADHD. There are several reasons why such disorders may occur in both adults and children.

For one, dopamine disorders are not limited to the brain’s inability to produce it. It can also be caused by damage to the D2 receptor due to sustained exposure to high levels of dopamine. When D2 receptors malfunction, a person’s reward system malfunctions as well.

To a person with less sensitive D2 receptors, the fly on the wall is as equally important as the lecture, because neither experience provides a rewarding feeling. As a result, this person actively seeks out other, more novel, experiences to achieve a feeling of reward.

To simplify, anything that can produce sustained high levels of dopamine can damage the D2 receptor. The problem is that anything from sleep deprivation, to junk food consumption, drug use, pornography (debatable), Facebook, and Internet use can cause D2 receptor sensitivity to fluctuate. Needless to say, extended exposure to these stimuli may create symptoms that are often misdiagnosed as ADD or ADHD.

Just to clarify, there is no evidence that lack of sleep, junk food, porn or Facebook will give a person ADD or ADHD. However, there is evidence that these stimuli can cause a decline in D2 receptors and produce ADD-like symptoms such as restlessness and an inability to focus.

This particular hypothesis has been orbiting the issue of ADD/ADHD for a long time. In fact, there are doctors who doubt the very existence of ADD/ADHD as an actual disorder, claiming that ADD/ADHD should be considered symptoms of a disorder rather than being considered disorders themselves. An article was published in entitled, “Doctor: ADHD Does Not Exist.” The writer of the article was Dr. Richard Saul, writer of the book, “ADHD Does Not Exist: The Truth About Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder.”

Saul writes, “In my view, there are two types of people who are diagnosed with ADHD: those who exhibit a normal level of distraction and impulsiveness, and those who have another condition or disorder that requires individual treatment.”

Add 2

C. Conclusions

If you find it difficult to focus, it’s probably not because you have ADD or ADHD. There’s a 95% chance that you’re just not sleeping well, or you’re eating too much fat, or you’re watching too much porn, or you’re spending too much time on Facebook.

Prolonged attention deficit, lack of motivation, and inability to focus can be the results of a vicious dopamine fluctuation cycle. People stay up late because of several online distractions. They’re sleep deprived and to keep them awake, the body compensates by dumping dopamine into their system. The dopamine dump damages the receptors and the person’s reward system, causing him to prioritize immediate rewards (such as Facebook “likes”) over long-term rewards.

The person wants immediate rewards because he’s not getting feelings of fulfillment and reward because his dopamine receptors are desensitized. So, he stays up late for online validation. Because he’s sleep deprived, his body craves for fat and he goes on binges. Fat damages receptors too. So, his receptors are further damaged.

There are theories that suggest that pornography has a similar effect on a person’s dopamine receptors. Exposure to intense stimuli spikes dopamine production in the brain. The receptors protect themselves by being less sensitive. So, the next time a person seeks a similar high, he’s going to require a higher dosage. Damaged receptors require higher forms of stimuli to produce feelings of pleasure, reward and fulfillment.

It sounds science-y, but it’s rather simple. If someone has a habit of screaming in your ear, you will develop a tendency to cover your ears whenever that person is around, in order to protect yourself. The next time that person wants to have the same effect on you, he has to scream louder.

So, sleep well and don’t damage those receptors!



Callaghan, T. (2010, March). “Understanding junk food “addiction” in lab rats.” Retrieved on: April 25, 2014. From:

Carver, J. “Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)” Retrieved on: April 25, 2014. From:

“Desensitization: A Numbed Pleasure Response.” Retrieved on: April 25, 2014. From:

Macrae, F. (2010, September). “Facebook and internet ‘can re-wire your brain and shorten attention span’” Retrieved on: April 25, 2014. From:

Schwartz, A. (2013, December). “The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder.” Retrieved on: April 25, 2014. From:

Saul, R. (2014, March). “Doctor: ADHD Does Not Exist.” Retrieved on: April 25, 2014. From:

ScienceDaily. (2014, February). “Eat spinach or eggs for faster reflexes: Tyrosine helps you stop faster.” Retrieved on: April 25, 2014. From:

The New York Times Editorial Board. (2013, December). “An Epidemic of Attention Deficit Disorder.” Retrieved on: April 25, 2014. From:

Volkow, N. (2012). “Evidence That Sleep Deprivation Downregulates Dopamine D2R in Ventral Striatum in the Human Brain.” Retrieved on: April 25, 2014. From:

WebMD. (2009). “Tyrosine.” Retrieved on: April 25, 2014. From:

Wintour, P. (2009, February). “Facebook and Bebo risk ‘infantilising’ the human mind” Retrieved on: April 25, 2014. From:

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People with High Self-Esteem are More Likely to be Assholes

There is a general opinion that people with high self-esteem live happier lives and are
less susceptible to depression should they face obstacles, or even encounter failure. The
wellness industry is filled with advice on how to acquire and improve self-esteem.
Furthermore, the general advice is, more often than not, different variations on how to
learn to increase one’s self-esteem.

Although there are loose correlations between happiness or success and self-esteem, there
is no proof of causality. With regard to happiness and success (factors often attributed to
self-esteem), even scientists are not sure whether self-esteem is the cause or the
consequence. In fact, it was even suggested that both self-esteem and happiness could be
the product of a genetic predisposition, in the same way that depression is.

One of the most overlooked issues with regard to this subject is the fact that there are
two kinds of self-esteem:

1. Explicit Self-Esteem

2. Implicit Self-Esteem

In a research report entitled, “Unconscious Unease and Self-Handicapping: Behavioral
Consequences of Individual Differences in Implicit and Explicit Self-Esteem” written by
Leah R. Spalding and Curtis D. Hardin, the researchers explained the distinction between
explicit and implicit self-esteem.

The explicit version is primarily a collection of positive opinions we consciously
recognize in ourselves. Implicit self-esteem is the automatic positive responses we have
when we encounter symbols and stimuli that we associate with ourselves.

The bigger distinction is probably in the formation of both forms of self-esteem. Explicit
self-esteem is the product of rational and conscious processing. When good looking guys
like us look in the mirror and tell ourselves, “Damn, I’m sexy,” we’re exhibiting a form of
explicit self-esteem. In other words, it’s our perception of our own actual self.

Implicit self-esteem is more intuitive. It comes from our earliest unconscious processing
of experiences that affect us. It’s similar to the Oedipus Complex. How our primary
caregiver has treated us in our youth can affect us deeply until we are old. Researchers
say that this type of self-esteem reflects our intuition about how we should be treated, or
is a reflection of the ideal self.

self-esteem 1

A. High Implicit Self-esteem

The first point I found really interesting was the devastating emotional damage
discrepancies between a person’s explicit and implicit self-esteem can bring.

A study was done by Daan H. M. Creemers and company called, “Damaged self-esteem is
associated with internalizing problems.” In this study it was revealed that the discrepancy
between a person’s implicit and explicit self-esteem is associated with depressive
symptoms, suicidal thoughts, and general loneliness.

Initially, the assumption I made was that these negative emotional symptoms came from
having high explicit self-esteem (bragging) and having low implicit self-esteem (being
insecure). I’ve always thought that bragging about something untrue or demonstrating a
value that isn’t there (e.g. fake confidence) can be bad for a person’s psyche.

However, research suggests otherwise. It’s actually worse to have a high implicit
(subconscious) self-esteem and a low explicit (conscious) self-esteem.

Researchers write, “Damaged self-esteem (high implicit self-esteem and low explicit self-
esteem) was related to increased levels of depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation, and
loneliness, while defensive or fragile self-esteem (low implicit self-esteem and high
explicit self-esteem) was not.”

As it was explained in the article, this has to do with how each variant of self-esteem is
developed. Here are two simple scenarios that would further clarify the situation:

Scenario 1 – a person with low implicit self-esteem and a high explicit self-esteem:

A girl with a predisposition towards chubbiness is bullied throughout her formative years.
She’s called “fatty” from preschool to college. After college, she loses her baby fat. One
day, she looks at the mirror and realizes, “Whoa! I’m hot now” (high explicit self-esteem).
She may appreciate her looks, the actual self she has now. She may receive compliments here
and there. However, her years of being chubby (low implicit self-esteem) will not make her
feel entitled to such compliments, and if ever she doesn’t receive one, she’s not going to
feel bad.

Scenario 2 – a person with high implicit self-esteem and a low explicit self-esteem:

An attractive quarterback is worshipped throughout his formative years. After college, he
gains weight and loses his popularity, but he still feels entitled to female worship (high
implicit self-esteem). However, when he tries to approach women, he consciously recognizes
the he gets rejected 9 times out of 10 (low explicit self-esteem). His actual self, and his
reality, does not live up to the ideal self that is ingrained in his subconscious.

People with high implicit self-esteem have an ingrained sense of entitlement. When reality
does not represent their expectations of what they deserve, the problems become
internalized in the form of depressive symptoms.

Given the negative consequences of high implicit self-esteem, one might think that it’s
safer to focus on a high explicit self-esteem instead. However, doing so has its own set of


B. High Explicit Self-Esteem

There’s an article from The Atlas Society called, “Is High Self-Esteem Bad for You?” by
Robert Campbell. In that article, Campbell discussed the research of Jennifer Crocker, a
professor of psychology at the University of Michigan. According to her study, self-esteem
has a tendency to fluctuate. And these fluctuations maybe unhealthy, especially when a
person derives his self-esteem from external factors such as good looks, academic
performance, income, etc.

Campbell writes, “Deriving one’s self-esteem from certain “external” contingencies, such as
appearance, is associated with potentially destructive behavior, including alcohol and drug
use, and eating disorders.”

The research suggests that when good looking guys like us look in the mirror and tell
ourselves, “Damn, I’m sexy,” we’re deriving esteem from an external contingent (our good
looks), which could lead to potentially destructive behavior, especially, if the contingent
is threatened.

This idea is further emphasized in a report written by Roy F. Baumeister called, “When Ego
Threats lead to Self-Regulation Failure.”


C. Self-regulation Failure

There are three hypotheses that are crucial in Baumeister’s research:

1. High self-esteem causes people to overestimate what they can accomplish and therefore
select goals that may be too difficult for them.

2. The hypothesized advantage of people with high self-esteem depends on superior and
extensive self-knowledge.

3. Their hypothesized disadvantage depends on the intrusion of egotism into the decision
process as to inflate their predictions and distort their judgment.

To simplify, people with high self-esteem often overestimate their abilities. If they have
extensive self-knowledge, if they know their limitations, they will have many advantages.
However, people with high self-esteem sometimes have an inflated ego, and the presence of
this ego causes these people to make irrational decisions.

Three basic observations were made by the researchers to exhibit different types of self-
regulation failure after an ego threat:

1. When people with high self-esteem fail, they respond by being more persistent, even when
it’s counter-productive.

2. When people with high self-esteem are criticized, they try to “repair” their public
image by insisting on rating themselves even more favorably than they did before.

3. When their high opinion of themselves is challenged, they have a tendency for self-
sabotage. Sometimes they handicap themselves or under-prepare so they can take more credit
if they succeed.

When the high self-esteem person’s view of himself is threatened by another person or
circumstance, an ego threat, they behave irrationally.

Upon further investigation on the type of irrational behavior high self-esteem people get
involved with, it was discovered that there are direct correlations between high self-
esteem and violence, especially when an ego threat is present.

Erica Goode, in her article, “Deflating Self-Esteem’s Role in Society’s Ills” discusses how
self-esteem’s role has been inflated and how low self-esteem has been demonized by society.

In this article, Erica Goode talked about a study done by Dr. Nicholas Emler. The study
mentioned how “no link was found between low self-esteem and delinquency, violence against
others, teenage smoking, drug use or racism.” High self-esteem, however, “was positively
correlated with racist attitudes, drunken driving and other risky behaviors.”

This tendency towards violence is something Baumeister has previously implied in the study,
Relation of threatened egotism to violence and aggression: The dark side of high self-

According to that study, low self-esteem does not cause aggression, crime, or violence.
Instead, violence and aggression are often a result of threatened egotism. A person who has
an inflated, unstable, or tentative belief in his own superiority may be most prone to
causing violence. People like these have a tendency to express hostility when they are
confronted with an inferior version of their self-concept.


D. Conclusions

There are many problems on the issue of high self-esteem. Another problem with regard to
high self-esteem is the general assumption that it’s a good indicator of ability. However,
as Dr. Baumeister says, “You can think well of yourself because you accurately appreciate
what you’re good at. You can also think well of yourself just ’cause you’re a conceited
snob. And the self-esteem is the same in either case.”

Dr. Baumeister seems to be the main antagonist of self-esteem promotion. He challenges the
idea that high self-esteem is worth developing. For years, he’s been trying to point out
that the self-help industry, with its blind promotion of self-confidence, is moving in the
wrong direction.

I would have to agree with Dr. Baumeister here. I think high self-esteem is overrated. For
one, it’s not an indicator of a person’s ability. Any asshole can have high self-esteem. In
fact, most assholes do. People who have high self-esteem are prone to arrogance, they take
pointless risks, and they have a tendency to resort to violence when their self-concept,
however distorted, is threatened by another person or a difficult situation.

I think it’s time people take a closer look on the actual science behind the common
misconception that improving a person’s self-esteem is a reliable umbrella solution to
solving personal issues.



Baumeister, R. Boden, J. Smart, L. (1996). “Relation of threatened egotism to violence and
aggression: The dark side of high self-esteem” Retrieved on April 23, 2014. From:

Baumeister, R. (1993). “When Ego Threats lead to Self-Regulation Failure” Retrieved on
April 23, 2014. From:

Campbell, R. (2003, July). “Is High Self-Esteem Bad for You?” Retrieved on April 23, 2014.

Creemers, H. M. Daan. (2013, April). “Damaged self-esteem is associated with internalizing
problems.” Retrieved on April 15, 2014. From:

Goode, E. (2002, October). “Deflating Self-Esteem’s Role in Society’s Ills.” Retrieved on
April 23, 2014. From:

Hardin, C. & Spalding, L. Psychological Science (1999). “Unconscious Unease and Self-
Handicapping: Behavioral Consequences of Individual Differences in Implicit and Explicit
Self-Esteem” Retrieved on April 23, 2014. From:

Harvard Health Publications. (2007, June) “Importance of high self-esteem: Implicit vs.
explicit self-esteem.” Retrieved on April 23, 2014. From:

Posted in Personal, Philosophy, Science, Society0 Comments

FF Podcast (Audio) 37: Would You Marry a Computer?

FF Podcast (Audio) 37: Would You Marry a Computer?

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) 37 - Would You Marry A Computer?

This week, we talk about a man who is protesting against marriage equality by trying to marry his porn-infested computer.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Posted in audio podcast, Gender Rights, Society0 Comments

FF Podcast 37: Would You Marry a Computer?

FF Podcast 37: Would You Marry a Computer?

This week, we talk about a man who is protesting against marriage equality by trying to marry his porn-infested computer.


You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Posted in Media, Podcast, Video0 Comments