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FF Podcast 60 (Audio): Pope’s Coming! Look Busy!

FF Podcast 60 (Audio): Pope’s Coming! Look Busy!

FF Podcast 60: Pope’s Coming! Look Busy!

This week, we talk about the visit of Pope Francis. We also discuss some of the child rape cases Pope Francis was involved with during his time as a cardinal in Argentina.

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, Religion, Society1 Comment

FF Podcast 59 (Audio): UK Bans Kink Porn

FF Podcast 59 (Audio): UK Bans Kink Porn

FF Audio Podcast 059: UK Bans Kink Porn

This week we talk about the United Kingdom’s plans to ban kinky porn, including but not limited to displays of female ejaculation and face-sitting. We also discuss some BDSM basics with an honest-to-goodness BDSM practitioner.

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, Entertainment, Freedom of Expression, Society0 Comments

FF Podcast 59: UK Bans Kink Porn

FF Podcast 59: UK Bans Kink Porn

This week we talk about the United Kingdom’s plans to ban kinky porn, including but not limited to displays of female ejaculation and face-sitting. We also discuss some BDSM basics with an honest-to-goodness BDSM practitioner.

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, Video0 Comments

CCF Executive Pastor dresses up as Arabic suicide bomber for Church Christmas party

CCF Executive Pastor Ricky as Arabic suicide bomber

CCF Executive Pastor Ricky Sarthou poses as an Arabic suicide bomber with another CCF Pastor Ickhoy de Leon

(December 20, 2014 Update Below)

For their Christmas party this year, Christ’s Commission Fellowship Executive Pastor Ricky Sarthou dressed up in traditional Arabic garments. The twist, however, is that strapped to his chest was a mock explosive device.

The Executive Pastor of one of the country’s largest Christian churches chose the outfit for their Church’s party’s theme, “Heroes and Villains.” The photo shown here is a screen-capture of a now-deleted post on Instagram by Ickhoy de Leon, another CCF Pastor. Along with a mock improvised explosive device, Pastor Sarthou can be seen in the photo wearing the traditional Arabic headdress called a keffiyeh.

While the intentions for dressing up in the costume may have been innocent, what message does it send for a high-ranking official in a Christian church to portray a violent stereotype of another religion?

Update (December 20, 2014): On the comments section of this article, a person claiming to relay the words of pastors from the CCF said the following.

“From Pastors Fenix of CCF: Good day everyone, since the post of Filipino Freethinkers has gone viral I would like to encourage everyone to be loving, prayerful & sober–keeping our emotions in check. ptr Ricky has sent a letter of apology to the CCF leadership & staff for going to the party as BIN LADEN. Ickhoy has also sent his letter of apology for posting the original pic on his instagram. I would like encourage everyone not to react or rebutt esp on social media bec that is what FF wants. Have a blessed Christmas.”

Posted in Religion, Society63 Comments

Men are Cheaters; Women are Gold Diggers (Part 1 of 2)

This article was inspired by a post on the Filipino Freethinkers updates and announcements Facebook group page. One group member casually asked the question, “If all the single men and women left are either philanderers or gold diggers would you look the other way, commit to them and live in delusion because you don’t want to die lonely? Or would you stay single forever?”

The scenario, in my opinion, forces us into what we might call a “false dilemma.” For one it implies that one must “commit” to someone in order to not die lonely, and that loneliness is the reason for why people choose to be in a relationship. But that’s beside the point.

What I found interesting was my own interpretation of the question. I’m not sure if it was intended by the person who posted, but it seemed to me that when the person said “philanderers,” he was referring to the single men; and when he said “gold diggers,” he was referring to the single women.

This is a common association a lot of people make: Men are cheaters; women are gold diggers. I felt that these were rather unfair generalizations. However, I don’t make conclusions based on what I “feel.” I decided to take a quick look at the available information on the subject.

Upset TeenagersDo men cheat more than women? Quick answer: yes. Is it because men are inherently “philanderers”? Nope.

Zach Schonfeld, in a report for The Wire from 2013 writes that, “Wives Are Cheating 40% More Than They Used to, but Still 70% as Much as Men.”

According to Schonfeld, “According to recent data from the National Opinion Research Center’s General Social Survey, American wives were nearly 40 percent more likely to be cheating on their spouses in 2010 than in 1990. The number of husbands reporting infidelity, meanwhile, stayed constant at 21 percent, meaning wives are now cheating 70% as often.”

There are many theories as to why women are, as it seems, suddenly deciding to cheat. Some think it’s because of increased female independence. In other words, women can now afford the consequences of having an affair.

Other people attribute this rise to the cultural shifts happening due to the Internet. There are actually extramarital meetup services like, Ashley Madison, to help facilitate such endeavors.

Schonfeld reports that the data from Ashley Madison confirms the trends revealed by the survey:

“The ratio of males to females is greatest among users older than 65, with 14 men for every woman. The ratio is 4-to-1 among users in their 50s, 3-to-1 for spouses in their 40s, and evenly divided among people using Ashley Madison in their 30s.”

In other words, those whose culture have been influenced by Internet trends, and whose career options and access to resources are not as limited by their sex, are as equally likely to cheat. As the economic gender gap between men and women closes, so does the “cheating gap.”

Based on this information, I think that the reason why men seem to have a higher tendency to cheat is not entirely because of biological reasons (although there are correlations), but rather because society is more permissive of male cheating.

For one, men, especially in the past, often find themselves economically equipped to deal with the consequences. Secondly, when men cheat, they are not publicly shamed as much as women are. At the very least, men are not stripped naked and beaten senseless in public like the poor girl:

CEN_ConcubineBeating_03.jpg

 

In part 2, we’ll take a closer look at the myth that women are “gold-diggers.”

 

Image Sources:

Image 1: https://veronicagraham.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/cheater_1.jpg

Image 2: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2791108/mob-rule-chinese-adulteress-stripped-naked-beaten-senseless-latest-attack-kind.html

Posted in Gender Rights, Science, Secularism, Society0 Comments

FF Podcast 58 (Audio): That Abstinence Video

FF Podcast 58 (Audio): That Abstinence Video

FF Podcast 58: That Abstinence Video

Are you a bobo boy or a gaga girl? This week, we talk about the Department of Health’s abstinence dance video.

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, HIV/AIDS, Politics, RH Bill, Science, Society0 Comments

FF Podcast 58: That Abstinence Video

FF Podcast 58: That Abstinence Video

Are you a bobo boy or a gaga girl? This week, we talk about the Department of Health’s abstinence dance video.

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 Advocacy, HIV/AIDS, Podcast, Politics, Religion, RH Bill, Society1 Comment

Homophobia: 60 Years After the Death of Alan Turing

Alan Turing was a mathematical genius, a wartime code breaker, a computer pioneer, and, to some extent, a British spy ala James Bond. He was among a number of code-breakers who decrypted Nazi military codes, saving millions of lives in the process.

Turing

The Filipino Freethinkers LGBT Pride March 2014 Banner

Alan Turing is also one of the pillars that has enabled our current information age. The technology behind computers, mobile phones, and even the Internet was based on the mathematical models he developed. Alan Turing innovated mathematical models that would become the backbone of technological progress. Alan Turing helped defeat the Nazis. Alan Turing is a pioneer, a hero, and a genius. He’s easily one of the greatest men who ever lived.

It’s such a shame that 60 years ago, 1954, Turing was prosecuted by the same government he helped protect, and by the same people whose lives he would improve because of his contributions to science and technology. Why was he prosecuted? Because he was gay.

When Turing was convicted, he was given the choice to either spend 2 years in jail, or undergo a hormone “therapy” that would leave him chemically castrated. With this conviction, he also lost his security clearance as well as his role in the government’s communication headquarters. Aside from that, the side effects of the chemical castration caused him severe depression.

He committed suicide at the age of 41.

Such is the face of homophobia. It’s reveals a picture of humanity at it’s most bigoted. It has robbed humanity of a genius and a hero. Who knows what other contributions Turing may have made if he was given the same liberty extended to straight people.

Homophobia continues to claim victims 60 years after Turing’s death. The persecution suffered by Turing persists until today. Homophobic discrimination is still prevalent. Hate crimes are still committed against the LGBT. Gay kids are still being bullied.

This is the reason why there is a need for events that promote LGBT awareness and tolerance.

The Filipino Freethinkers are happy to announce that we will be marching with our LGBT allies as part of both the Metro Manila Pride March (Dec. 6) and the QC Pride March (Dec. 13). We march in the hope that homophobic discrimination will one day be eradicated from civil society.

Turing 2

The Filipino Freethinkers #ThanksTuring Pride March Shirts

To celebrate Alan Turing’s contributions to science and technology, and to bring awareness to the unfair prosecution of great men and women of the LGBT, the Filipino Freethinkers will be marching with Alan Turing shirts and banners.

We invite everyone to join our contingent in expressing our support for the LGBT community.

 

If you would like to march as part of the Filipino Freethinkers contingent in the 2014 Metro Manila Pride March, please visit our event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/624376127673564/

If you would like to march as part of the Filipino Freethinkers contingent in the QC Pride March 2014, please visit our event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/485520478255588/

Posted in Advocacy, Freedom of Expression, Gender Rights, Science, Society0 Comments

A Conversation with Paul Bloom

A Conversation with Paul Bloom

This week, we talk with Paul Bloom, Yale professor of psychology and cognitive science. We discuss whether religion is necessary to be moral, why politicians are babies, and if the Internet makes us better people.

Posted in Media, Religion, Science, Society, Video0 Comments

FF Podcast 57 (Audio): Three Questions That Predict Atheism

FF Podcast 57 (Audio): Three Questions That Predict Atheism

FF Podcast 57: Three Questions That Predict Atheism

Red woke up one day and forgot he was an atheist. Thank goodness for tests!

This week, we discuss three questions that supposedly predict whether you are an atheist. We talk about analytic thinking and whether atheists are smarter than believers.

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, Philosophy, Religion, Society0 Comments

Atheist Confession: “I like Pope Francis.”

Pope-Francis-GETTYI’m going to say something many of my fellow secularism advocates would probably not appreciate: I like Pope Francis.

Why?

I like Pope Francis because, in my opinion, he is more liberal than many liberals. American conservatives already hate him for his seemingly liberal position on many issues. He’s so liberal that Sarah Palin is actually taken aback by what she calls his “liberal agenda.” The Pope is so liberal that writer Damian Thompson, in an article he wrote for “The Spectator,” had to ask if we were in the early stages of a Catholic civil war.

Apparently, even Catholics think the Pope is too liberal. Fr. Dwight Longenecker writes:

“Some have given up on Pope Francis. Others say he is ‘the false prophet’ who will accompany the anti Christ in the end times. Others don’t like his dress sense, grumble about his media gaffes and some think they are all intentional and that he is a very shrewd Jesuit who wants to undermine the Catholic faith.”

I like Pope Francis because he openly criticized Capitalism and even compared it to “the worship of the ancient golden calf”:

“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

I like Pope Francis because he did a lot of cool stuff in 2013.

Mark Pygas wrote an article about the Pope in Distractify and among the highlights include:

He criticized the Church’s frivolous spending. He let a boy with Down’s Syndrome ride the Popemobile. He denounced the judgment for homosexuals. He encouraged the protection of the Amazon Rainforest. He acknowledged that atheists can be good people. He condemned the global financial system. He amended the Vatican law to make sexual abuse of children a crime, and also established a committee specifically to fight that kind of abuse. He declared that the Church has an unhealthy obsession with abortion, gay marriage, and contraception. He broke tradition by performing the ritual washing of feet on women and Muslims.

I like Pope Francis because the things he did, which earned him “Person of the Year” honors, are things that I have, in my own little way, been trying to do as well: denounce judgment for homosexuals; bust myths about the “evil” atheists; criticize corporate greed, government corruption, and the sexual abuse of children by the clergy; point out the Church’s irrational position on abortion, gay marriage, and contraception.

The Pope and I are like bros, you see? We have been supporting some similar advocacies, the only difference is, he does it even better than I do – with a much bigger platform and with greater effect.

I can honestly say that Pope Francis did a lot more for secularism than many advocates of secularism, including me.

Because of the Pope, it’s now extremely easy for me to discuss evolution and the Big Bang with Catholics. Before, they could just avoid the conversation entirely, claiming that it’s a “matter of religious belief.” Now, I can conveniently remind them that the Pope, the leader of their religious affiliation, agrees with me.

Apart from those, I also like that the Pope “revised” the Ten Commandments:

1. “Live and let live.”

2. “Be giving of yourself to others.”

3. “Proceed calmly” in life.

4. Develop a healthy sense of leisure.

5. Sundays should be holidays.

6. Find innovative ways to create dignified jobs for young people.

7. Respect and take care of nature.

8. Stop being negative.

9. Don’t proselytize; respect others’ beliefs.

10. Work for peace.

Now, before our readers declare me as a gullible, atheist, Pope-fanboy, I should clarify that I’m not declaring the Pope as the second coming of Chuck Norris. As much as I like him personally, I’m aware that there are reasons to get off the bandwagon.

In the article, “5 reasons you should stay off the Pope Francis bandwagon,” writer Timothy McGrath provides a breakdown of “concerns” regarding Pope Francis. McGrath reports that:

1. There are unanswered questions regarding the Pope’s inaction during the Dirty War in Argentina.

2. The Pope handles child sex abuse poorly.

3. The Pope’s current views on abortion and gay marriage is inconsistent with his previous stance.

4. The Pope continues the “inquisition” against American nuns.

5. The Pope may have performed a live exorcism.

And it seems too, that the Pope has recently backtracked on his liberal stance. Nick Squires, in his news article, “Pope: Children Need Mother and a Father,” reports that:

“Pope Francis appeared to bow to pressure from Catholic conservatives on Monday when he delivered a robust affirmation of the importance of the traditional family.”

I think that’s a little disappointing, but I’m still giving Pope Francis the benefit of the doubt.

Some people think that Pope Francis is just an extremely talented, one-man Catholic propaganda machine. I’m not ruling out that possibility. It’s entirely possible that he has an army of publicists and public relations specialists that script every single response and gesture that the Pope makes, even when cameras are not around, in order to convince the world that he is a good person.

Yes, that’s entirely possible.

If that were the case, he’s been doing a really good job. In fact, he seems to do it without much effort, which leads me to think that maybe, just maybe, he’s just a regular good person who just happened to be Pope.

I’m rather ashamed to admit that I tried very hard to hate the Pope as soon as he was elected. I wanted to hate him, not because of anything he did (he hadn’t done anything yet when I first decided to hate him), but simply because of a personal bias. I didn’t like the Pope, because I don’t like Catholicism, and the Church, and anything that is associated with what I consider to be symbols of oppression and subjugation. I didn’t like the Pope, because he was supposed to be the bad guy. I didn’t like the Pope because I was prejudiced.
In my desire to criticize religious organizations and promote my own agenda, I became similar to the homophobes who would hate someone just because they were gay, or self-righteous bigots who would assume the worst of atheists just because they were atheists. I hated the Pope just because he was Pope, and it was wrong of me to do so.

When I asked myself, “If Pope Francis weren’t Pope, would I like him as a person?” I realized that I like him.

He has a Master’s Degree in Chemistry. He believes in the Big Bang and evolution. He thinks atheists can be good people. He says that the Church shouldn’t be so obsessed with abortion, gay marriage, and contraception. He’s not afraid of the mafia. He doesn’t like capitalism and America thinks he’s a Marxist.

What’s not to like?

I realized that the only thing I didn’t like about him was the fact that he was Pope. If he were my college professor, or my neighbor, or my boss, I would probably like him. In fact, if I were single and the Pope was a girl around my age, I would totally ask her out.

So, I guess I’m an agnostic/atheist who’s a fan of the Pope. Is that weird?

 

Image Source:

http://www.independent.co.uk/incoming/article8629389.ece/alternates/w620/Pope-Francis-GETTY.jpg

Posted in Personal, Philosophy, Politics, Pop Culture, Religion, Secularism, Society4 Comments

FF Podcast 57: Three Questions That Predict Atheism

FF Podcast 57: Three Questions That Predict Atheism

This week, we discuss three questions that supposedly predict whether you are an atheist. We talk about analytic thinking and whether atheists are smarter than believers.

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 Podcast, Religion, Science, Society0 Comments

Money Can Buy Happiness

A few days ago, I published the article “Nothing Will Make You Happy,” which introduced readers to a controversial claim made by Harvard professor of psychology, Dan Gilbert. In the TedTalk, “The Surprising Science of Happiness,” Gilbert stated that after a year, a paraplegic and a lottery winner will have similar capacities for happiness.

The reason for this is because human beings have developed a psychological immune system that automatically distorts our perception of our own circumstances, automatically making positive perceptions of even bad situations. He called this kind of happiness – synthetic happiness. What this information implies is that external situations do not necessarily affect a person’s capacity for happiness.

The notion that one can be happy even if one was poor, or ugly, or obese, or unhealthy, or unsuccessful, is very comforting for the least motivated of us – me, at least.

However, Gilbert also mentioned the effect of freedom on our capacity for synthesizing happiness. People with less freedom find it easier to rationalize their situation. People with more freedom are not as good with creating synthetic happiness. Knowing that making one choice over another will not improve your situation, your brain starts to rationalize why it’s okay to stop trying because “this isn’t so bad.” But as long as we know that we are capable of acquiring or achieving more, we will inevitably be unsatisfied with our current status. My own freedom and “potential” may be preventing me from achieving a perfect state of synthetic happiness.

Now, I’ll still be as capable of happiness as a rich person even if I was poor. Yes, I can still be happy, but overwhelming evidence suggests that I’ll be happier if I was not poor.

Happiness and sadness are not two sides of a coin. These states exist in a spectrum. Some are simply happier than others. The problem with happiness is that it’s not easy to measure because there are plenty of factors that can increase or decrease happiness. It’s hard to tell what exactly makes a person happy.

The article, “Money, Marriage, Kids,” by Chuck Leddy, for example, explains how having money, being married, and having children can influence a person’s happiness. So, a rich person who isn’t married, and has no children, may self-report less happiness than a person with less (but enough) money, who is married and has children.

We’re not going to be 100% sure what makes other people happy, but there is evidence that there is a positive correlation between money and happiness.

MONEY
 

In 2008, Justin Wolfers, an Australian economist and public policy scholar, wrote a six-part article series called, “The Economics of Happiness”, in Freakonomics.com:

Part 1: Reassessing the Easterlin Paradox

Part 2: Are Rich Countries Happier than Poor Countries?

Part 3: Historical Evidence

Part 4: Are Rich People Happier than Poor People?

Part 5: Will Raising the Incomes of All Raise the Happiness of All?

Part 6: Delving Into Subjective Well-Being

If you’re not inclined to read all of that evidence, you can find a summary of the same data in The New York Times article, “Maybe Money Does Buy Happiness After All,” by David Leonhardt.

If you don’t want to read that either, here’s Wolfers’ conclusions:

The facts about income and happiness turn out to be much simpler than first realized:

1) Rich people are happier than poor people.
2) Richer countries are happier than poorer countries.
3) As countries get richer, they tend to get happier.

Moreover, each of these facts seems to suggest a roughly similar relationship between income and happiness.

There is no ambiguity here. Money makes people happy. However, it’s still possible to have plenty of money and not be happy.

In a research paper published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology (2011), Elizabeth W. Dunn, Daniel T. Gilbert, and Timothy D. Wilson suggested that “If money doesn’t make you happy, then you probably aren’t spending it right.”

In the same paper they proposed very useful recommendations on how people can maximize the amount of happiness they buy with their money. The abstract of the study reads as:

“The relationship between money and happiness is surprisingly weak, which may stem in part from the way people spend it. Drawing on empirical research, we propose eight principles designed to help consumers get more happiness for their money. Specifically, we suggest that consumers should (1) buy more experiences and fewer material goods; (2) use their money to benefit others rather than themselves; (3) buy many small pleasures rather than fewer large ones; (4) eschew extended warranties and other forms of overpriced insurance; (5) delay consumption; (6) consider how peripheral features of their purchases may affect their day-to-day lives; (7) beware of comparison shopping; and (8) pay close attention to the happiness of others.”

To conclude, here’s a quick FAQ for possible questions that might still be lingering in the reader’s mind:

Is a poor person as equally capable of happiness as a rich person? Yes.
Is it possible for a poor person to be happier than a rich person? Yes.
Would poor people be happier if they had more money? Yes.
Are poor people, on average, just as happy as rich people? No.

There is no single path to happiness.

One can earn it through achievements, one can find it in marriage and in children, one can “synthesize” happiness out of “nothing,” and it turns out, one can also buy it (as long as one knows what kind of purchases provide happiness).

So, to those who have plenty of money, here’s a terrible pun, “Happy shopping!”

 

Image Source:

http://younginvestorsoftoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/money-buys-happiness.gif

Posted in Personal, Philosophy, Science, Society0 Comments

“Nothing” Will Make You Happy

HappyI live from paycheck-to-paycheck. I don’t make a lot of money. I don’t own a lot of useful things – mostly cards and toys. I do not own a television. The only furniture in my room is a bed on the floor. It doesn’t have a bed frame. Most of my immediate family are abroad. The only family I have here, in the Philippines, is my brother. I see him once a week. I have no savings. I’m rather obese; obese II to be exact. I’m 31. Friends of mine from college run businesses, own homes, have started families, have travelled to many places. I, on the other hand, don’t have any savings. In fact, if my mom doesn’t send me a few bucks each month, I won’t be able to pay my rent.

In other words, I’m not one would call a “success story,” and I wouldn’t be surprised if some people thought I was kind-of a loser.

The weird thing is, I’ve always considered myself a happy person. Despite the fact that I’m often broke, overweight, and getting old, I’m happy. The only time I feel genuinely sad or anxious is when I get into an argument with my girlfriend, or when someone dies, or when I have to take an exam I’m not prepared for, or when the Netrunner data pack I wanted was out of stock. I sometimes think that there’s something wrong with me, because I don’t get as sad or as anxious as most adults do.

When I published the article, “Sad, Sad World,” a few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked, “Are human beings supposed to be sad, by default?” I said, “Our brains are more efficient at retaining memories of negative events and experiences, so, yes.” “Then, why am I not sad?” she asked. I didn’t really have an answer.

I thought about the same thing. I realized that my understanding of what makes people sad and happy is rather incomplete. So, I did more research.

Yesterday morning, I came across the TedTalk, “The Surprising Science of Happiness,” by Dan Gilbert. In this TedTalk, Gilbert challenges common notions of what creates happiness. He claims that we are generally unaware of what makes us happy, we don’t know makes us sad, and we overestimate how negative experiences might affect our capacity for happiness.

He shares data that supports the notion that human beings have what he calls a “psychological immune system.” He claims that human beings have developed a mechanism that allows them to feel better about their own circumstances.

Gilbert begins his talk by asking the audience to make a choice between two different scenarios:

“Here’s two different futures that I invite you to contemplate, and you can try to simulate them and tell me which one you think you might prefer. One of them is winning the lottery. This is about 314 million dollars. And the other is becoming paraplegic.”

He then makes the claim that, after one year, both paraplegics and lottery winners are equally happy. In other words, a person’s capacity for happiness is not limited by his or her circumstances. In fact, studies reveal that most people have a tendency to overestimate the amount of misery they’ll experience from negative events.

Gilbert says:

“From field studies to laboratory studies, we see that winning or losing an election, gaining or losing a romantic partner, getting or not getting a promotion, passing or not passing a college test, on and on, have far less impact, less intensity and much less duration than people expect them to have.”

Another interesting notion Gilbert discussed is the distinction between natural happiness and synthetic happiness. Natural happiness is the positive feelings we gain from getting the things that we want. Synthetic happiness is, in my opinion, a fancy term for “sweet lemons.”

The idea of “sweet lemons” is rumored to have emerged from the saying, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” The idea of “sweet lemons” has a negative implication, however. It implies that a person has successfully fooled himself into thinking positively about undeniably bad circumstances. Similarly, a lot of people are skeptical about synthetic happiness. As Gilbert says, “We smirk because we believe that synthetic happiness is not of the same quality as what we might call “natural happiness.”

We assume that people who cherish their sweet lemons can’t possibly be as happy as people who are happy because of external reasons (wealth, health, fame, beauty, etc). That’s the very notion Gilbert is challenging. He says:

“I want to suggest to you that synthetic happiness is every bit as real and enduring as the kind of happiness you stumble upon when you get exactly what you were aiming for.”

The point Gilbert is trying to make is that a lot of people erroneously consider happiness as something that could be found or earned, when, in fact, it’s something that one can simply create. While most people think that external circumstances determine happiness, Gilbert presents evidence that prove the opposite.

Everyone has a psychological immune system that can synthesize happiness. However, Gilbert reminds us that not all immune systems are created equal. Some people do it better than others, and some situations are more ideal for such synthesis to occur.

Gilbert says:

“It turns out that freedom — the ability to make up your mind and change your mind — is the friend of natural happiness, because it allows you to choose among all those delicious futures and find the one that you would most enjoy. But freedom to choose — to change and make up your mind — is the enemy of synthetic happiness.”

Having more freedom allows you to take the necessary steps to achieve natural happiness, while having less freedom, or being unable to change your situation, forces your psychological immune system to synthesize happiness from within.

So, here’s what I’ve learned so far:

In “Sad, Sad World,” I discussed how our brains are geared to pay more attention to negativity, so we have a tendency to notice and recall negative experiences and events more often. However, based on “The Surprising Science of Happiness,” our happiness can function independently from the negative experiences and events we encounter.

So, essentially, you can acquire natural happiness from fulfilling your dreams and goals. But you can also acquire, or synthesize, happiness should you fail to fulfill these goals. In other words, “nothing” can make you happy just as much as “something” can, because we have a built-in happiness synthesizer that can turn our existential lemons into lemonade. Pretty sweet, don’t you think?

 

Sources:

Gilbert, D. (2004). “The Surprising Science of Happiness.” Retrieved on November 10, 2014. From: http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_gilbert_asks_why_are_we_happy?language=en

Kay, A. Jimenez, M. Jost, J. (2002).  “Sour Grapes, Sweet Lemons, and the Anticipatory Rationalization of the Status Quo.” Retrieved on November 10, 2014. From: http://www.psych.nyu.edu/jost/Kay,_Jiminez,_&_Jost_%282002%29_Sour_Grapes_Sweet_Lemons.pdf

 

Image Source:
http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/images/i/000/003/984/i02/happy-worker.jpg?1369767137

Posted in Personal, Philosophy, Pop Culture, Science, Society5 Comments

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