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16th May 2013
Some more updates!
The Causes of Fundamentalism, Intolerance and Extremism in World Religions, and Some Solutions - I've added a quote from Voltaire (1764) to section 4.1. "Monotheism and Violent Intolerance". The quote in full reads: "One remarks a singular contrast between the sacred books of the Hebrews, and those of the Indians. The Indian books announce only peace and gentleness; they forbid the killing of animals: the Hebrew books speak only of killing, of the massacre of men and beasts; everything is slaughtered in the name of the Lord; it is quite another order of things."
Errors in Thinking: Cognitive Errors, Wishful Thinking and Sacred Truths - I've added section 3.1 "Story Telling and Second-Hand Information", and, added some notes from psychologists Jonah Lehrer's and Daniel Kahneman to sections "Pareidolia: Seeing Patterns in Random, Complex or Ambiguous Data", and 6.1 "The Prevention of Errors: Skeptical Thinking".
Democracy: Its Foundations and Modern Challenges - relaunched this page and moved it to a new domain. I've added several sections, including results of the Press Freedom Index, showing which are the best 25 and worst 25 countries, and added a large section on the Mass Media, largely concentrated on the negative effects on democracy.
Current Music: "Cherokee" by Europe
31st January 2013
A few updates on Religion, Ethics and Human Rights
(1) : "Morals With or Without Religion" by Vexen Crabtree
(2012) I have expanded two sections - "2.3. Is Religion Required to Be a Good Person?" and "3.2. Human Communities Share Most Morals No Matter What Religion They Are". I have added Talcott Parsons (1966) on dogma, a USA poll from 2002 that saw a ridiculous 44.% of the population say it is *necessary* to believe in God to be moral, and Parsons, Bryan Wilson and Karen Armstrong all saying religion is required for meaningful morals, and 2 of them warn the complete moral collapse will follow on from secularisation. (40 years later... nothing's happened). And in section 3.2 added quotes from Pascal Boyer on the biological and non-religious causes of good morality.
(2) I am completely redoing all of the statistics from "What is the Best Country in the World? Who Sets the Best Examples?" by Vexen Crabtree
(2013). The old stats are archived at the bottom of the page, and the news stats include, so far:
- The United Nations Human Development Index (which includes measures on health (via life expectancy), schooling and wealth).
- Fertility rates (to see if the country is contributing to overpopulation)
- Nominal Commitment to Human Rights
- The year that women attained the right to vote and stand for election (the longer ago it was, the more points the country gets).
- The UN's Gender Inequality Index
Each country can get a maximum of 100 points for each range, and, the country's final score is their average from all the ranges of stats that they appear in. At the moment, the best countries are: Australia, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and new Zealand
Current Music: "The Trial" by Pink Floyd
10th May 2012
Christianity and Environmentalism
I've added a paragraph to : "Satanism and Environmentalism" by Vexen Crabtree
(2007), based on quotes from Ellerbe (1995), referenced fully on the page of course:
In the middle era of Christian history, the Church throughout Europe spent hundreds of years suppressing the celebration of nature. In the sixth century bishop Martin of Braga asked "what is the lighting of wax lights at rocks or trees or wells or crossroads if it is not worship of the devil?". The General Capitularies of Charlemagne in 789 described the celebration of sacred natural spaces as evil, and such places are to be destroyed wherever they are found. Images depicted holy men chopping down sacred trees, sometimes, God would prevent such trees from falling on them in order to show its approval of the action.
Current Music: "Rolls Royce" by The Horatii
8th June 2011
Minority Religions and Intelligence
I've added a section to : "Religion and Intelligence" by Vexen Crabtree
2.4. The Exceptions of Minority Religions
There are exceptions to the general rule that religion is linked with lower intelligence. Some esoteric or obscure religions attract particularly educated fans. Sometimes this results from an anti-establishment source amongst students or adults, sometimes it is because a particular style of religion gains a very positive image. Buddhism in the UK once attained this status and a wide range of intellectuals flocked to newly formed Buddhist societies and the like. These were later criticized for misrepresenting Buddhism, in particular by omitting irrational and societal elements of it. A survey in 1998 found that nearly 75% of the followers of the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (one of the largest UK Buddhist groups) had a first degree, compared to 11% of the rest of the population. A third of them also had higher degrees. Some minority religions attract a disproportionately intelligent following because they are hard to engage with, therefore, those that attach themselves to the religion are the types of people who commit strongly to their interests in life. In all cases, as such movements gain in numbers and diversify to include more types of followers, this initial trend diminishes.
Current Music: "A Touch of Evil" by Judas Priest
17th May 2011
Christian Morality in Action
I've added a long quote from Victor Stenger as section 3.6 to : "Christian Moral Theory and Morality in Action: Social Disaster" by Vexen Crabtree
The skeptic Victor Stenger considers the claim that Christian morality is better than secular morality by examining the actual rates of immorality within Christendom. He finds in general that Christianity does no better, but, that the stricter forms of Christianity are often correlated with worse risks of abuse, neglect and violence.
“According to statistics from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Christians make up almost 80 percent of the prison population. Atheists make up about 0.2 percent. It is to be admitted that these data are not published in a scientific journal, but I think it is safe to conclude that the godless do not fill prisons. Published studies do indicate that a child's risk of sexual abuse by a family member increases as the family's religious denomination becomes more conservative, that is, when the teachings of scriptures and other doctrines are taken more literally. Similarly, the probability of wife abuse increases with the rigidity of a church's teachings pertaining to gender roles and hierarchy. [...] Even observers from the Christian side have expressed dismay that the current dominance of evangelical Christianity in America has not translated into a strengthening of the nation's moral character or the characters of evangelical Christians themselves. In an article in Christianity Today, theologian Ronald Sider lamented [...]:
"The findings in numerous national polls conducted by highly respected pollsters like The Gallup Organization and The Barna Group are simply shocking. "Gallup and Barna," laments evangelical theologian Michael Horton, "hand us survey after survey demonstrating that evangelical Christians are as likely to embrace lifestyles every bit as hedonistic, materialistic, self-centered, and sexually immoral as the world in general." Divorce is more common among "born-again" Christians than in the general American population. Only 6 percent of evangelicals tithe. White evangelicals are the most likely people to object to neighbors of another race. Josh McDowell has pointed out that the sexual promiscuity of evangelical youth is only little less than that of their nonevangelical peers."”
-- Prof. Victor J. Stenger (2007)
18th April 2011
It is theologically problematic that Jesus decided not to write anything down. For thousands-and-hundreds of years, mistranslations of important Biblical verses misinformed the masses, and for much of humankind's history, most people never got to hear Christian ideas. It cannot be the case, therefore, that people need the Bible in order to fulfil God's plan. Tim Rice once had this idea, too: :
You'd have managed Peter better if you'd had it planned
Now why'd you choose such a backward time and such a strange land?
If you'd come today you could have reached a whole nation
Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication!”
-- Jesus Christ Superstar (1971). Written by Tim Rice
I've just been writing on this type of thing on "God's Methods of Communication: Universal Truth Versus Hebrew and Arabic" by Vexen Crabtree
Current Music: "Letting Go (Delobbo Sika mix - extended)" by Glis
8th March 2011
European Laws of Family Reunification and Muslim Immigration
I've added a section on : Fetching Marriages and Muslim European Immigration
to "Legislation and Faith: Religious Rights and Religious Wrongs" by Vexen Crabtree
It is about how in some European countries, Muslim married couples from some countries do not have to sit through the interviews that everyone has to, in order to import their spouse. This is because it is assumed that it is an arranged marriage, and that they haven't met yet!!
Not only is this reverse discrimination - whereby many immigrants are forced to follow stricter procedures than some (Muslim) others, but it also undermines Western ideas of morality, where marriage is a free enterprise with no element of compulsion. For these two reasons, such exemptions should be removed, and all people and all religions should be treated equally under law, as is the ideal in fair democracies.
Current Music: "Freiheit" by Unhelig
17th July 2010
Mind-Body Dualism: Not a Source of Free Will?
I've added notes from Paul Davies in two places on : "The Illusion of Choice: Free Will and Determinism" by Vexen Crabtree
1.2. Body-Soul Dualism: What if Our Minds Are Not Physical?
Some people argue that our 'minds' are separate to our bodies. They hold that because of this, our minds are therefore free from cause and effect. However there are some conceptual problems with this idea.
- Most thought must follow cause and effect in order to be coherent. Thinking randomly is no more free will than having your thoughts controlled by neurones. So, our minds must still run along lines of logical cause-and-effect, or, in other words, in a cycle of thought-and-afterthought. To break this chain of causality is to break the very flow of consciousness.
- Saying that minds are ethereal, non-physical, spiritual or whatever-else does not grant them with free will. If thoughts are not random, there must be factors which influence what thoughts are thought, and what choices are made. We know that most of those factors are purely physical - sex drives, hunger, hormone-driven emotions and the like all make little sense without a physical foundation. The full emotional range appears to be controlled purely by biology (hence why brain damage can so drastically affect personality). Is there really any room for a non-physical mind?
- But nonetheless what if some thoughts are completely non-physical? The philosopher-physicist Paul Davies ponders this in his "God And The New Physics", and unfortunately realizes that "one can still ask, what causes the mind to decide the way it does? If those causes originate in the physical world (and clearly some do) then we are back with determinism, and the introduction of a non-physical mind is an empty embellishment. But if some of those causes are non-physical causes, then we are no better off than we are with uncontrollable physical causes".
Causality plagues both the physical world and any non-physical minds you care to imagine; if thoughts are uncaused they are meaningless, if they are caused then there is no free will.
And, to:6. Randomness: Quantum Uncertainty, Chaos Theory and Neurones
“We must be careful here. Quantum effects are probably too small to have much influence on the operation of the brain at the neuron level, but if they did we would surely have not free will, but breakdown. A quantum fluctuation that forced a neuron to fire when it would normally not (or vica versa) is surely to be regarded as an interference to the otherwise normal operation of the brain. If electrodes were planted in your brain and triggered at random by an external source, you would regard that form of interference as a reduction of your freedom.” -- "God And The New Physics" by Paul Davies (1984)
Not only does randomness result merely in another sublayer of non-choice, but, it is very doubtful if random quantum events have any significance above the smallest scale. Each neurone has between 100 and 10000 synapses that influence when it fires; it would require millions of spontaneous 'random' cascades of quantum effects to cause a neurone to overcome its position in the network and fire without cause; otherwise, the various inhibitors prevent small sudden biochemical events from causing misfires. Statistically, it is unlikely if quantum randomness has ever made a single neurone fire without cause
Current Music: "Sehnsucht" by Wumpscut
23rd May 2010
Animal Sacrifice has been a Traditional Element of Religions since Ancient Times
I've added a few lines about occultism and popular magic to : "Animal Sacrifice and Blood Rituals in Traditional World Religions and Satanism" by Vexen Crabtree
Animal sacrifice has gone hand in hand with traditional and old religions6. The cradle of religion, animism, is rife with it. It is only the post-Roman Empire secular world that has fully rejected animal sacrifice. It remains in the holy books of the world's major traditional religions and is still practiced by many. It has in the past been a part of common, folk culture and folk religion; the resurgence of magic books, general occultism and popular belief in charms, luck, fate, etc, had led to a renewed interest in dusty old ritual magic. Will Emrish of the German Society for Protection against Superstition (DEGESA: Deutsche Gesellshaft vor Aberglauben, founded in 1954), who was also a former president of the German Animal Protection League, complained that "the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses had led to the painful deaths of numerous cats, chickens, moles, and toads by followers of its magical cures".
Current Music: "Altum Silentium" by Reaper
25th February 2010
I've rewritten the introduction to : "Traditional Religions and Abolition of the Slave Trade" by Vexen Crabtree
Voodoo priests, slave protests and economics were the three powerful factors that brought the age of slavery to an end. They battled against organized campaigns that aimed to keep the trade going, with religious justifications centering on the Christian Bible. Christianity and Islam were the two worst-offending religions, and conservative Christians hung on to their slaves for the longest. China never ordained slavery, and the Buddhist
Emperor Wang Mang was "probably the first recorded ruler to abolish the slave trade". There are some early anti-slavery thinkers, such as the pagan Zeno's Stoics
), but as there are so few anti-slavery movements until much later, this page simply concentrates on the movements that existed at the time when the major slave trades of the world ceased to operate.
And added a bit:
6.4. Christian Pro-slavery
Christians with vested interests justified slavery on account of their religion although the Bible is much less openly embracing of slavery than the Qu'raan. Christian arguments were used such as slavery facilitated the evangelizing of slaves, that black couldn't be saved anyway, and that certain Biblical stories made blacks out to be inferior and cursed by god - although no scholars nowadays interpret these passages in this way, at the time, they did. Bishops and Monks provided some of the arguments that were used all over to justify the ownership of slaves. The fact that god-worship does not lead to better morals in society is one of the factor that leads skeptical and atheist thinkers such as Victor Stenger to conclude that God doesn't exist:
“Jesus had many opportunities to disavow slavery. He never did. St. Paul reaffirms the practice: "Bid slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect" (Titus 2:9).
Prior to the Civil War, the Bible was widely used to justify slavery in the United States. Baptist leader and slave owner Richard Furman (d. 1825) laid the foundation for the biblical arguments that would be made in support of slavery leading up to the Civil War. While president of the State Baptist Convention, Furman wrote to the governor of South Carolina, "The right of holding slaves is clearly established in the Holy Scriptures, both by precept and example". [...]
While Christians in the South held onto their slaves as long as they could, secular humanist Richard Randolph of Virginia began freeing his in 1791. Popes and other fathers of the Catholic Church owned slaves as late as 1800. Jesuits in colonial Maryland and nuns in Europe and Latin America owned slaves. The Church did not condemn slavery until 1888, after every Christian nation had abolished the practice.”
"God, the Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist" by Prof. Victor J. Stenger (2007)
Current Music: "Rot v1.0" by SITD
16th February 2010
The Crucifixion Story of Christianity: Did Jesus Die for Our Sins?
I have rewritten large chunks of : "The Crucifixion Facade" by Vexen Crabtree
(2002). I've rewritten the central analogy about the Christian story of God's plan for salvation, highlighting the absurd nature of the whole plan, check it out:
God makes the rules of the Universe. Adam and Eve sinned: We suffer for it. This is God's rule. He then creates a Son, lets it be murdered in a brutal way, so that we no longer suffer the Original Sin. It would have been much more logical if God simply never allowed us to inherit the sins of Adam and Eve. God makes the rules... then creates more suffering (of Jesus) in order to repeal one of his own rules? It is a contradiction, and a moral absurdity, and therefore can't be true of a perfect, moral or just God.
An analogy can be used to explain the fall of man and the salvation offered by God's plan for Jesus. Each successive part of the story is less moral than the version before it:
- You have slipped, and are hanging from a mountain ledge. A man sees your predicament and pulls you to safety, away from the certain death that awaits you below.</p>
The next version introduces the idea that you have to 'accept' Jesus as your saviour before God will save you:
- You have slipped, and are hanging from a mountain ledge. A man sees your predicament and tells you he can save you, if you admit Him as your savior. When you do, He pulls you to safety, away from the certain death that awaits you below.</p>
The next version introduces the idea that God created the system of original sin ('the fall') in the first place, and makes us subject to it:
- You're on a mountain ledge, when the man pushes you off. You have no chance except to grab onto the ledge. He tells you he can save you, if you admit Him as your savior. When you do, He pulls you to safety, away from the certain death that awaits you below.</p>
And the final story of Christian salvation introduces the idea of the crucifixion of Jesus to atone for our sins:
- You're on a mountain ledge, when the man pushes you off. You have no chance except to grab onto the ledge. The man is holding baby Jesus in his arms. He tells you he can save you, if you admit Him as your savior. When you do, the man throws the child over the edge so he can then pull you to safety, away from the certain death that awaits you below.</p>
There is no reason to throw the child over the cliff in order to save mankind. None at all... God can just save us, even if its son never existed. Some argue that it was necessary because of the laws of the Universe, that a sacrifice had to be made. However... who made the laws of the Universe? God! [...]
Submitting to such a monstrous scheme is to condone its immorality, to sacrifice our morals too, along with our dignity. We are granted knowledge between good and evil... and I know an evil scheme when I see one! If I am a selfish person, I would do anything to attain heaven... but if I am a moral person, I cannot accept God's scheme as portrayed by Christian beliefs.
Current Music: "Be Me" by Ayria
1st February 2010
Reactions Against Youth Culture
I have reformated some text into a new section: : "General Neophobia in Everyday Life: Humankind's Fear of Progress and Change: 3.1. Reactions Against Youth Culture" by Vexen Crabtree
It seems to many in the modern era that current elements of youth culture are particularly rotten. Mass stupidity, mass ignorance and intolerance, rising crime rates and youth violence all seem related to violence in modern music and film. Yet you do not have to delve too far back into history to find that every era has had the same concern. Professor Sonia Livingstone is Professor of Social Psychology and Head of the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics, and she says that "every technology generates a huge anxiety that it is rotting children's brains, ruining family life and alienating children from the community. We've heard these claims for every medium there's ever been, from comic books to film and television and mobiles".
It seems that there is always something popular amongst the young that elders consider to be too dangerous to allow to accept. There is always some new mass-media technology threatening the fabric of society. Writing, the printing press, illustrated prints and the internet have all been hailed as the end of social humankind, and to be a cause of ignorance. Is this all a simple case of neophobia, of the older amongst us simply rejecting elements of youth culture that happen to be new? I think yes, but, it is also not the whole story, as Professor Ferguson alludes to in an essay on video games and youth violence:
“We'd love it if our children would read more, take an interest in classic Greek plays, or get more into the music that we older folks enjoy. Society's elders repeat the same cycle from generation to generation, becoming suspicious of new art forms that they don't use and have no use for. It appears to be part of human nature to disparage youth culture whenever it emerges, perhaps as a means of maintaining dominance in the guise of "protecting children."”
Current Music: "Sent to Destroy" by Combichrist
8th December 2009
Babies and Infants Dreams
I've added this to : "The Biology of Dreaming" by Vexen Crabtree
An unborn baby at 32-36 weeks will have the thalamo-cortical neural networks in place that facilitate conscious awareness. Prof. Koch notes that an unborn baby at that point is almost permanently asleep and sometimes in REM sleep; although we do not know to what extent late unborn babies dream, there is evidence that they feel "the way we do when we are in a deep, dreamless sleep". Later:
“Dream content is informed by recent and more remote memories. Longitudinal studies of dreaming in children by retired American psychologist David Foulkes suggest that dreaming is a gradual cognitive development that is tightly linked to the capacity to imagine things visually and to visuospatial skills. Thus, preschoolers' dreams are often static and plain, with no characters that move or act, hardly any feelings and no memories.” - Prof. Christof Koch (2009)
27th November 2009
Animal Ritual Sacrifirces and Kosher & Halal Food
I've added a few research studies to : "Animal Sacrifice and Blood Rituals in Traditional World Religions and Satanism" by Vexen Crabtree
(2008). The introduction to the text reads:
World religions such as Christianity
all embody a traditional and sometimes bizarre set of animal sacrifice rituals in their holy texts. These practices, despite being borderline barbaric and not in keeping with modern ideas of animal welfare, are still in use today by religious communities all over the world, including in the most modern countries. Although it might seem reasonable in the West to allow butchers to sell halal
food, at the core of this familiar label is weird ritualistic behaviour that belongs in the dark ages. The ideals of pluralism have blinded us to the stark reality that some religious practices are simply unacceptable. Animal rights campaigners have joined forces with moral activists to try and curb religious ritual slaughter of animals. The general public associate blood rituals involving animals with Satanism, not realizing that they were all invented and are still practiced by mainstream religions - and that Satanism does not involve animal sacrifice. We compare scriptures below and look at some of the gory and shocking rituals that God directly asks people to do in the Jewish Scriptures / Old Testament. As modern governments continue to legislate against cruelty to animals, we will find that it is the world's mainstream religions' adherents who retreat to shady basements and hidden locations to perform secret rituals to kill animals, rather than Satanists or Pagans.
The studies include definitive proof that animals feel pain during religious ritual sacrifices when preparing Halal and Kosher food for Jews and Muslims
. Stunning stops animals suffering completely, and it has been proven that stunning does not hinder blood draining
Current Music: "Till the Heart Caves In" by K.D.Lang
17th October 2009
Child Abuse: Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi defends the Catholic Church at the Human Rights Council
I have added a serious new part to my page "Child Abuse by Christian Priests: Horror, Paedophilia and the Clergy" by Vexen Crabtree (2009):
The Human Rights Council of the United Nations met in Geneva on 2009 Sep 22, where the Catholic Church was challenged over its response to its child abuse horrors. The Vatican's official UN observer was present, Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi. This religious body's presence at the UN HRC is nowadays matched by the non-religious secular representative of atheism and suchlike, the International Humanist and Ethical Union, who in this instance was Mr Keith Porteous Wood, who is also the director of the UK's National Secular Society, a body that lobbies for politics and religion to be kept seperate.
Keith Porteous Wood set the context by recalling that in 1990 "the Holy See acceded to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It submitted its first and only report in 1994 - about which CRC expressed several areas of concern. But since then - nothing". The RCC has breached five of its Articles. Some of the most serious complaints which he then iterated were that the Church had not taken claims of child abuse seriously, had not acted on cases that were clearly within its power to act upon, had accused many victims of making up stories and has moved offenders to one place to another instead of reporting them to authorities as instructed to do.
Bishop Silvano Maria Tomasi's reply contained some quite odd reasoning. Some of his arguments were that actually, homosexuals were to blame, that abuse has occurred in other institutions too, not just in the Catholic Church, and that the church has acted on at least two occasions by issuing statements to its priests. Probably as a result of continued revelations of cover-ups and scandals, the Archbishop also mentions that the Catholic Church, in its second report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, will devote an entire paragraph to the problem of child abuse by the clergy. I hope it is a truly efficiently-written paragraph, as I do know how busy the Church is tackling other problems, such as the evils of contraception. The Vatican's defence of child abuse by its staff rests on a few further points that Archbishop Tomasi raises:
- Most cases of child abuse are by relatives of the child in question. Also, pupils in public schools are also given 'unwanted sexual attention' by staff.
- Protestant Churches in the USA have more cases of child abuse by its clergy than do Catholics.
- Also, Jews have a higher rate of child abuse too.
This appalling and dismissive response not only misses the facts - the Archbishop was called to defend the Vatican against claims it had breached 5 Articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, but instead spent most his time pointing out that Catholic priests were not the only ones at it. Not only that, but his comparison was misleading as, as the IHEU pointed out, there are far more Protestants in the USA than there are Catholics. When I first estimated that 3% of Christian priests were involved in recurring cases of child abuse, I thought that this number might be too horrible to be true. The Archbishop, however, actually agreed:
“From available research we now know that in the last fifty years somewhere between 1.5% and 5% of the catholic clergy has been involved in sexual abuse cases.”
Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi (2009)
I am quite sure that the Archbishop, given his other dismissive defences, is himself repeating a conservative claim of the numbers of clergy involved, and I suspect with horror that the number might therefore be over five percent.
Something which highlights the odd and elusive arguments of the Archbishop, is the response of a Rabbi as reported in The Guardian:
"Representatives from other religions were dismayed by the Holy See's attempts to distance itself from controversy by pointing the finger at other faiths. Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, head of the New York Board of Rabbis, said: "Comparative tragedy is a dangerous path on which to travel. All of us need to look within our own communities. Child abuse is sinful and shameful and we must expel them immediately from our midst.""
His condemnation of child abusers is clear and his comment is directed solely at those who commit such crimes. He didn't pass the buck, play down the problem or indicate that homosexuality was the real problem, as opposed to paedophile priests. His quick response shames the Archbishop's politics and games.
18th September 2009
National Belief in God and Intelligence
All the studies on my : "Religion and Intelligence" by Vexen Crabtree
(2007) had concentrated on individual measurements of IQ, and how they correlate with religiosity. In the West, this largely correlates with Christian religiosity. Because most of these studies are performed in the West, it is possible that secularism and atheism is correlated with higher intelligence simply because Christianity has a particularly negative effect on intelligence.
To explore that further, I wanted to see if these trends exist in various cultures, where the background religion is no Christianity. Luckily for me, such studies have already been done, and have shown that across the globe, the more religious the people are, the less their average intelligence. It seems that the effects of belief on the Human search for truth are universal, and not religion-specific.
A study of data for belief in God and intelligence across 137 countries was undertaken by Lynn, Harvey & Nyborg (2009)9, with the latest comprehensive sets of data available, which were mostly from 2004. The data shows conclusively that countries with a higher average IQ have less belief in God - they state that "in only 17% of the countries (23 out of 137) does the proportion of the population who disbelieve in God rise above 20%. These are virtually all the higher IQ countries". Sociologists have found that in general, as a country gets more intelligence, the rate of belief in God begins to drop.
I've updated "Religion and Intelligence" by Vexen Crabtree
(2007) and done a nifty graph showing this correlation in action.
24th June 2009
I have added the following text to my page : "Approaching Death: Cremations, Disposal of Bodies and Suicide" by Vexen Crabtree
Assisted suicide is illegal in most countries that have laws on suicide. In the UK suicide was decriminalised in the Suicide Act of 1961. The same law made it illegal to help another person do this legal act, and is punishable by up to 14 years in jail. But this isn't the whole story. Eight hundred Britons have signed up with Dignitas, and one hundred have voluntarily died there, aided to their end by physicians. None of the Brits who travelled with them, or the relatives who helped them beforehand, have had a prosecution brought against them. A principal book on UK criminal law states that "if it is determined that the terminally ill person was competent, her local authority had no power to seek to maintain an injunction to restrain her spouse from complying with the wife's wishes to take her to Switzerland" to commit suicide. This creates, in reality, a conflicting and impractical state of law. Lord Falconer, once the Lord Chancellor in the UK, continues:
“Though prosecuting those going with them has in no case been deemed in the public interest, many fellow travellers have been interviewed by police and waited for months to learn that no charges would be brought. It is "time now for the law to catch up with reality," he says. [... and proposes that] if someone declares before an independent witness his intention of committing suicide, and two doctors certify that he is terminally ill, a person accompanying him abroad for that purpose should not face prosecution.”
The Economist (2009)
Lord Falconer's sensible declaration seems hard to fault, except for the fact that many of those who suffer from excruciatingly horrible and debilitating diseases that are not actually terminal illnesses. The law should allow the assisted suicide of those certified as per Lord Falconer's idea, with the addition of those certified to be unable to counter a disease that dominates every area of their life. Eighty percent of Britons support changing the law.
So... to what extent should free will and freedom be allowed, and where are the lines?
7th June 2009
Public Relations Lies in the Mass Media
I've added text to my page : "Smoking: Society, Health and the Freedom of Choice" by Vexen Crabtree
“Modern journalists work at breakneck speed to process stories as fast as possible. Therefore most news services rely heavily on public relations (PR) material in order to rapidly produce the stream of news. Much of this news comes from trusted wire agencies, but these also rely on PR input. Because of these pressures, public relations firms and commercial companies are having a heyday and find it easy to insert material into news media. In general, over half of all news stories are mostly PR or contain substantial PR-sourced material. Journalists themselves do not check the facts or figures of such inputs, nor admit in the articles themselves that PR material is the true source of the information, so the news often appears unbiased. Powerful commercial lobbies use this weakness to pervert public opinion.</p>
For example in the 1950s the smoking lobby created a waft of innocent-sounding and scientific-sounding groups in order to discredit government information about the dangers of smoking. Oil and petrol lobbies have spent fortunes on the same PR tricks, as have food industry lobbies. They produce scientific reports engineered by their own scientists, which serve to boost their own industries by deceiving the public. In short, don't trust the news media directly even when they are reporting on scientific-sounding research groups. Always check facts with long-standing scientific bodies such as the Royal Society. Rich and activist commercialist lobby groups have a set of well-practised and efficient methods for manipulating the news and public opinion. The scientists and welfare groups who wish to get real scientific worries about certain industries out into the open are not funded or equipped to run public relations campaigns. Only multinational information campaigns, legal agreements and inter-national political bodies such as the EU have the oomph to be able to fight back against such powerful industries.”
"The Modern Mass Media: The Bane of Human Cultural Evolution" by Vexen Crabtree (2008)
This disinformation campaign has spanned many decades; vested commercial interests provide an incentive to manipulate the public's understanding of the risks.
“As a result of paperwork disclosed in US court cases, we now know that when the tobacco companies in the 1950s found themselves under pressure from the discovery of the link between smoking and cancer, they hired PR companies to create a network of pseudo-groups to massage public thinking on their behalf. Hill & Knowlton, who were then the biggest PR agency in America, duly created the Council for Tobacco Research and the Tobacco Institute as apparently independent organisations to produce research to defend their sales. [...]</p>
A second PR agency, Burson-Marsteller, created the National Smokers Alliance as an AstroTurf group, to hold public meetings and hassle politicians, changing the tobacco story from a threat to health to a threat to freedom.”
"Flat Earth News" by Nick Davies (2008)14
26th April 2009
Can Brits criticize immigrants taking jobs, when 10% of Brits work abroad?
I've added some arguments to : "UK Immigration, Economics and Pensions" by Vexen Crabtree
(2007), and added a new opening paragraph to the conclusion on that page. It reads:
Firstly, the values of freedom and fairness dictate that we should allow a wide flow of immigrants into Britain. Ten percent of Britons live or work abroad, so we can hardly argue against free migration. We are ourselves poor at foreign languages, so it is also unfair if we were to hypocritically criticize foreigners for living here without being good at our language. The free migration of open labour markets benefits entire economic regions. The opposite, the nationalist raising of labour barriers against foreigners, has the same effect as trade tariffs: to distort the market, reduce wage efficiency and balance and to harm the economy as a whole. Ironically, attempting to secure local jobs for local residents has the effect of shrinking the economy, therefore reducing the long-term number of overall jobs. Strongly reducing immigration and stopping foreign workers is not worth the economic instability and the loss of freedom and would be hypocritical, given the numbers of Brits that migrate.
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