Tag Archive | "Love"

Faith Fails, Science Saves

It is apparently controversial to say that science will be able to tell us what is important in life. Science, as paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould said, tells us how the heavens go, while religion tells us how to go to heaven. And for the most consequential things, it seems that science must yield to faith when considering what it means to have a good life.

But there is something gravely wrong with this kind of thinking. What it says is that reason cannot be used to distinguish right from wrong, happiness from suffering. But, even if reason, evidence, and methodical thought fail to illuminate our understanding of what constitutes a life worth living, what are our alternatives?

The mere suggestion that science can determine how we ought to behave understandably irks religious conservatives. For the faithful, this is an act of war against religion, which has always claimed for itself the realm of ethics and human values. That this assumption of moral authority still holds sway, when religions have failed in accurately representing practically anything in the world, is baffling. If religious traditions have been completely wrong about what goes on in the universe, why would they suddenly be unquestionably correct about what goes on in the mind?

A morality that is not based on authoritarian precepts is merely the acceptance that the world is not black and white and actions can have unforeseen consequences. And a science of morality would have to agree with what religious demagogues have been saying all along: there are moral truths to be found and there are objectively wrong ways to act. It seems especially strange then that, while they decry moral relativism, conservatives try to explain away the disgusting depravities in the Bible by calling for them to be placed in “context.” This precisely argues for a relativist morality—justifying mass murders (by Yahweh himself), rapes, and social outlooks by the culture at the time.

Saying that there are objectively good acts means only that there is a difference between an action that can bring about happiness and another that results in suffering. We can be right or wrong on whether homophobia is conducive to well-being. We can be right or wrong on whether misogyny is a good principle on which we should run our society. Our beliefs regarding these matters are, essentially, claims about conscious experience—how the brain responds to stimuli and how well-being is realized in the brain. And in this realm of facts, as in all others, there is no reason to put religious claims on a pedestal.

As we study more about the brain, our opinions on ethics will become increasingly constrained by psychological research and neuroscience. Findings such as those on the effect of corporal punishment on children and on the structural differences between the brains of normal and psychopathic human beings will change how we relate to each other and how we organize our societies. Our traditional views on parental roles and on how responsible people are for their actions may be altered as we continue to investigate how the evolved mind interacts with its surroundings. We might find that our justice system is not conducive to a peaceful society. We might find that our economic system inevitably leads to abuse and suffering. We might find possibilities for moral awareness that were never available to our pre-scientific ancestors or contemporary religious leaders.

There is public trust in science for many things that we’d never look to religion for answers, such as in believing in corrective glasses over faith healing. But, why is it that when the stakes are highest, when we are considering lives and the happiness of conscious human beings, science, reason, and logic take a back seat? The question on what makes a life worth living is, to say the least, hard to solve, but there are answers: based on facts and not on the musings of men who thought that all animals used to be herbivores.

Not only is science considered impotent when contemplating the deeper questions in life, it is generally believed that rationality ruins romance.

Consider the classic challenge against atheists. When questioning the existence of God, atheists are invariably asked to compare God with love. That is, love is said to be intangible and it admits of no rational inquiry, but we know it’s there. We can just feel it. While the analogy is false (love is realized in the brain as the sum total of specific neural activity and, thus, exists in the natural world), it reveals a common perception that scientific scrutiny is incompatible with an awareness for wonder in this world.

But that is clearly not true. The chemical process that results in feelings of love is itself a thing to behold and appreciate. That there is something material underlying our affection for others or art takes nothing away from our experience. And here we can expand our moral circle beyond even just humans.

Since our capacity for love and moral action evolved (not to say that morality should reflect the cruelty of Darwinian natural selection), it necessarily implies that other animals have similar, if not identical, capacities for compassion and cooperation. And here is where Christianity, in particular, is extremely impoverished. That humans (and specific kinds of men) are set apart by God is nothing short of speciesism and bigotry. Though there are cognitive differences between humans and other animals, that is what differentiates our moral responsibility to each other and not the entitlement assumed to be bestowed by a creator.

A non-supernatural outlook emphasizes the importance of our relationships in the here and now. We should thank doctors for healing us; we should thank farmers for providing for us food; we should thank our friends and families for comfort and companionship. These are the people who should matter to us, and attributing our happiness to something that isn’t there steals away from what other people rightly deserve.

Many believe that one day the world will end and that this would be the greatest thing that could ever possibly happen. Every action we do here in life is meaningless outside the goal of eternal paradise. This nihilism is why we must rid ourselves of religion wholesale. How could we ever endeavor to build a lasting society when our neighbors secretly yearn for doom and destruction, leaving all us suckers who never bought into religion to burn in perpetual torment. These are beliefs that are not conducive to mental health, let alone peace and human flourishing.

Science allows us to comprehend the world around us in a way our ancestors never could. Still, many choose to bind themselves to the follies of the past, relying not on evidence but on the servile desire to let other men think for themselves. It is a shame, when available to us now are methods and insights that will allow us to not only have greater knowledge, but a deeper and more meaningful understanding of what it means to be alive and how we must act.

The acceptance that all that there is is this natural world requires from us the understanding that there is no delaying justice to an afterlife. There is no point in deferring mercy and charity to a final judgement. If we yearn for anything that would resemble heaven, our only choice is to create it here.

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Heart, Art, and the Occasional Fart

As an alternative to the usual meetup format, FF spent its latest gathering getting our art on at The Collective, albeit early enough to have the warehouse-turned-hipster haven to ourselves.

As it was a pre-Valentine’s meetup, the group first discussed the notion of romantic love and the irrational behavior that it entails. Questions such as Would you die to save your loved one’s life?; Is monogamy the way to go?; and Is masturbating to another person’s image considered cheating? were asked, and generated quite heated discussions.

Afterwards, members showcased their creative skillz to the group:

There were quite a few guitarists in our midst, including Chris…


…and Mark.

The most endearing string-man of them all, however, was Philip, who played a little Spanish ditty for us on his old-skool octavina.

Not to be outdone, the more literary types also had their turn, starting with a scintillating string of culinary haikus from none other than the esteemed Theodocius Chang.

Reighben shared some impromptu verses from his cel’s Sent folder.

I read an excerpt from my short story “Yaya.”

And Ibyang performed a freshly written love poem dedicated to all the Freethinkers.

Despite the different format, last Saturday’s meetup was every bit an FF shindig, featuring a lot of smart, sexy people unafraid to share their passions.

(Photos courtesy of Jeiel Aranal, Patrick Charles Rigonan, and Hombrey Escalante)

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A Quick Scientific Limerick :)

Come on guys, let’s show our love for science and poetry. Let’s keep the creative juices flowing. Here’s my start on this mess. 🙂 I’m sure you can think of other creative limericks, whether they be about science, math, or anything under the freethinking sun, no? 🙂

There was a guy named Schroedinger
who was quite an exceptional thinker
He posited that
there’d either be a dead or live cat
Even before you laid down a finger
(to appreciate my limerick even more, here’s a good reference on Schroedinger’s cat)
And I don’t want to leave another favorite subject of mine (among others) without its own limerick. 😉
Newton discovered calculus
So did Leibniz, plus its use
There was some dispute
on who’d bring the discoverer’s loot
But Isaac won over a ruse.
(to appreciate my math limerick, please see the Wikipedia article on the Calculus discovery controversy)

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The Greatest Love of All

I was preparing my first cup of coffee for the day when my ears picked up that song by Jamie Rivera, Tell The World of His Love. I admit this was one of my favorite religious songs; it even put tears in my eyes whenever I heard this song because of the “powerful” message it conveys.

That was before.

“For God so loved the world
He gave us His only Son
Jesus Christ our Savior
His most precious one”

The story of how god “sacrificed” his only son to save us from our sins is a central belief in Christianity. This story is appealing to many people who see it as the ultimate example of love and god’s goodness. But then again, is it?

I have three problems with Jesus’ crucifixion story; they are the following:

1. Jesus didn’t stay dead, did he?

Sacrificing your life (or your son’s life) could be considered as the greatest love of all, but the problem with the Bible story is that Jesus was resurrected after three days. It’s not even a sacrifice in the same way as those firemen who sacrificed their lives (and the future of their loved ones) whenever they respond to a fire scene. How could we consider it as the ultimate sacrifice when god himself knew that Jesus would rise again after three days? I firmly believe that most people, given the chance, will choose to torture and “kill” their only son to save the entire human race from damnation provided that their son will return in mint condition after three days.

2. He died because of our sin which was supposed to originate from the fall of Adam and Eve.

“Why did god put the tree of knowledge in the garden?”

“Why did he create it (the tree of knowledge) in the first place?”

I remember when I asked this question to a religious group. They replied with “that’s a good question, give us your number, and we’ll text you so that you could attend our worship service and then you can ask our pastor”. Unfortunately, they never contacted me. The story of the origin of sin and the subsequent redemption of Christ is one of the most absurd stories I know. Humans made the mistake of eating the fruit of a tree that god himself put there (and god even introduced it to humans) and he can only forgive us by murdering his son who will eventually rise from the dead.

Ezekiel 18:20 states thatThe person who sins is the one who will die. A son won’t suffer punishment for the father’s iniquity, and a father won’t suffer punishment for the son’s iniquity. The righteousness of the righteous person will be on him, and the wickedness of the wicked person will be on him.

3. The crucifixion itself.

God was supposed to be the creator of everything and yet, for some reason, the only way he could think of redeeming us is through the death of his only son. We should kill his son so he could forgive us. Can’t god think of any better (and more humane) way for human redemption? Anyone who watched Mel Gibson’s very graphic movie Passion of the Christ will never take crucifixion lightly again. Calling it murder is an understatement. It is also interesting to note that most people find the ritual sacrifice of animals as terrible and yet they applaud the human sacrifice of the Bible. Can’t god just give us another way? One that doesn’t include murder and blood sacrifice?

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Gather ’round kids, it’s time for math!

Mathematics is for everyone. Really.

This article ( and the succeeding ones in the series) aims to prove that point. That everyone has a mathematical brain. Specifically, I’ll concentrate on a certain area of mathematics in this article known as geometry, and then go to more advanced geometry (usually college or graduate level geometry). Don’t fret! There are no equations here which will make your eyes wander and do something else (at least while you’re reading the article). There are a lot of  science articles around, but what you usually don’t get often are articles about math, how beautiful and useful it is, and how important it is to science and modern civilization.

Read the full story

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I Just Want Him Safe

I call to you to keep him safe
Are you listening to me?
I want you watching him
Because I can’t
I’m just a helpless girl
Who doesn’t know a thing
About prayer
Well, I’m praying now

I call to you to keep him safe
Are you listening to me?

Do I have the right to pray
So doubtfully like this?
There’s no one else to turn to
And I’m afraid
Please make him strong enough
To be alright
Please get him through the night
While I pray in half-belief
To the one he trusts completely

Do I have the right to pray
So doubtfully like this?

Allow me to pretend
To believe and trust you
That’s the best I could attempt
To fight the haunting thoughts
Of his body on the pavement
Lifeless, breathless, cold
Imagination unfolds
And I’m trembling
I’m afraid to lose him

Please allow me to pretend
To believe and trust you

Allow me to embrace
This flicker of faith
There’s this hollow feeling
Of not knowing
And I can’t find someone else to run to
So pardon me if I call you
I mean no disrespect
I’m just a helpless girl
Who’s so afraid

So allow me to embrace
This flicker of faith

I just want him safe.

(This poem was written in September 2003, when I was struggling with being an Agnostic. Photo was taken by me on one of my trips to Japan.)

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Falling In Love: The Physics Of Attraction

This article discusses why the colloquial expressions such as “That’s why I gravitate towards you”, “I’m falling for you”, and “She is attracted to me” can be quite scientifically accurate. The following article muddles up the meanings of casual words like “falling” and “attraction” with the currently accepted theories, studies, and findings of physics on the related matters. I’ve done something like this before , similar in fashion to how the word “God” is poetically and figuratively used in relation to the “religious”  views of Einstein, Stephen Hawking, and other physicists . This time, it’s love. 🙂

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