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Archive for the ‘science’ Category

Sam Harris on the Importance of Breaking Religion’s Spell

Posted by honestpoet on November 18, 2008

Here’s an excellent bit from the question and answer period after a debate with Rabbi Wolpe. I’ve been watching a lot of Mr. Harris on YouTube, and I have to say that I like him even more than Richard Dawkins. Don’t get me wrong, I love Dawkins, but, as an American, Harris is more aware of the need to speak with the religious politely and without snarkiness. Dawkins can come off a bit smug, which is a mistake when dealing with the American religious, who already feel beset and belittled, and whose defense mechanisms thereby fly up as soon as the subject is broached with any sort of superior attitude.

Here’s another bit: Sam Harris at the TruthDig conference, talking about how beliefs have consequences, and why the taboo on not examining religious beliefs needs to be lifted.

Here he is talking about the relative morality of various books of the Bible and what would happen if as a society we actually followed it.

And one more, at the Idea Festival in Aspen, where he disputes a lot of common misconceptions about atheism:

If you’d like to hear more of what he has to say, here’s the link to his website, which includes links to a number of articles and videos (including the full debate with Rabbi Wolpe). His thinking is even more in line with my own than Richard Dawkins’s. Dawkins and the rest of the recent crop of atheistic authors turn their backs on mystical experience, whereas Sam Harris, while approaching it as a skeptic, acknowledges that there’s something there to examine that could prove worthwhile, perhaps yielding up that which religions seek but never truly find, tied up as they are in their supernatural superstitions and dogmatism. He’s experienced contemplative states and acknowledges that they can lead to an increase in the ability to experience empathy and compassion, which are clearly in short supply these days.

A neurobiologist, he was motivated to start writing by the events of 9/11, and his focus is on the affect of beliefs on behaviors. Some people have painted him as some sort of warmonger Islamophobe, but that’s hardly the case when you read the suspect passages in context. Does he say that people holding the beliefs indoctrinated by Islam can be led therewith to bad behavior? Absolutely, but that’s hardly the same thing.

Posted in atheism, Building a Better World, catholicism, Christianity, Christianofascism, climate change, economic crisis, evolution, feminism, freedom, fundamentalism, gay rights, genocide, global warming, hegemony, history, homophobia, Iraq, Islam, Jesus, Jews, Koran, language, literature, marriage, mental illness, misogyny, monoculture, morality, Muslims, peace, psychiatry, religion, religion and science, Richard Dawkins, ridiculous beliefs, science, secular humanism, secularism, skepticism, terrorism, the Bible | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Matt Damon on Sarah Palin Having the Nuclear Codes

Posted by honestpoet on September 11, 2008

I liked Matt Damon as Loki in Dogma, which is one of my favorite movies (like that was a tough guess). Now I really love him. Here he is on YouTube, expressing how absurd it is that Sarah Palin is as close to becoming President as she is. He compares it to a bad Disney movie, which I think nails it. (Kudos to Kate for finding this one.)

Posted in atheism, Christianity, Christianofascism, fundamentalism, John McCain, politics, religion, religion and science, ridiculous beliefs, science, separation of church and state, skepticism, the Bible | Tagged: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

The Purpose and Uses of Fiction

Posted by honestpoet on June 18, 2008

Majutsu recently made a long post about the futility of fiction (as he understands it), and I disagreed with him insofar as literary fiction goes. (I pretty much agree with him regarding religious fictions, of course, though even they have their uses.) I’ve been involved in writing fiction myself these past few weeks, and in researching potential markets for the story I’ve finished, I came across this excellent article (scroll down to the “Editorial Prelude”). Here’s an excerpt I found particularly germane:

The fact that all human beings have imagination and are at least potentially capable of entering into the life of another person is what makes literature innately moral and ethical. One antidote to the sickeningly self-regarding culture that inundates us, then, is literature, or it should be. Literature opens minds, stimulates the empathic/sympathetic imagination by allowing readers to see the world through other eyes than their own. Just as a workout in a gym strengthens muscles, a workout with a poem or story strengthens the imagination.

As well, I wanted to include an excerpt from John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction which highlights another use of fiction:

Toward the close of a novel, the writer brings back — directly or in the form of the characters’ recollections — images, characters, events, and intellectual motifs encountered earlier. Unexpected connections begin to surface; hidden causes become plain; life becomes, however briefly and unstably, organized; the universe reveals itself, if only for the moment, as inexorably moral; the outcome of various characters’ actions is at last manifest; and we see the responsibility of free will.” [emphasis mine]

Thus the novel has its own metaphysic, which to me seems even more necessary now that traditional metaphysics are failing us. The truly artful novel balances the implication of science that we live in a deterministic universe where freedom is an illusion. It is not, and its practice, the practice of our free will to make moral choices, is more necessary than ever. Literary fiction, if embraced for this end, might just be the way out of the moral morass we find ourselves in on this planet where the old ideas, though going out kicking and screaming, are dying.

Posted in fiction, language, literature, morality, science | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Green Movement Welcomes Homer Simpson and Everyone (Who Wants to Live)

Posted by honestpoet on April 26, 2008

Here’s a funny op-ed at the BBC website (which we check daily to keep in touch with the world…we haven’t watched the news or read much in the way of newspapers for a long time). It’s from George Meyer, a long-time writer of the Simpson’s, and uses humor (on the mature list of Freudian defense mechanisms, Maj reminds me frequently) to talk about the rather serious predicament we as a species find ourselves in, creating the climate change that is going to threaten our survival (or at least our life as we know it) if we don’t get our act together in time to reverse it.

Posted in climate change, Earth Justice, ecology, environmental activism, science | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Bayer Ranks High in the List of Evil Corporations

Posted by honestpoet on January 29, 2008

If you’re concerned about a shadowy group of Europeans pulling our political strings and ruining good people’s lives (what some like to call the Illuminati, though anyone with sense has to see that these folk are not enlightened in the least), check out the Wikipedia article on Bayer AG.

Here are some interesting snippets:

As part of the reparations after World War I, Bayer had its assets, including rights to its name and trademarks, confiscated in the United States, Canada, and several other countries. In the United States and Canada, Bayer’s assets and trademarks were acquired by Sterling Drug, a predecessor of Sterling Winthrop.

Bayer became part of IG Farben, a conglomerate of German chemical industries which formed the financial core of the Nazi regime. IG Farben owned 42.5% of the company that manufactured Zyklon B, a chemical used in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. When the Allies split IG Farben after World War II for involvement in several Nazi war crimes, Bayer reappeared as an individual business. Bayer executive Fritzter Meer, sentenced to seven years in prison by the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, was made head of the supervisory board of Bayer in 1956, after his release.

Isn’t that great? I’m thinking of writing a short story based on the transactions…imagine, businessmen making a deal over boxes of poison gas. “Thanks for doing your part for the Final Solution, Fritz. And here’s a bag of money for it, to boot.”

Bayer AG is involved in an ongoing controversy with French and Nova Scotian beekeepers over claimed pesticide kills of honeybees from its seed treatment insecticide imidacloprid. France has since issued a provisional ban on the use of Imidacloprid for corn seed treatment pending further action. A consortium of U.S. beekeepers has also filed a civil suit against Bayer CropScience for alleged losses.

I’m wondering if this could explain the problems bee keepers in America have been having with the as-yet unexplained hive collapse syndrome which is threatening our food supply.

Austrian journalist Klaus Werner alleged in his Black Book on Brand Companies, that the Bayer subsidiary H.C. Starck financed the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo by trading illegally with the mineral coltan. The allegations were also confirmed by a U.N. panel of experts. Bayer alleged that since 2001 it didn’t trade any more with congolese coltan, but never proved where their resources came from.

How much these people care about human lives: zero. Which would explain the following:

In October 2001, Bayer was taken to court after 24 children in the remote Andean village of Tauccamarca were killed and 18 more severely poisoned when they drank a powdered milk substitute that had been contaminated with methyl parathion.

The white powder that resembles powdered milk and has no strong chemical odour was packaged in small plastic bags that provide no protection to users and give no indication of the danger of the product within. The bags were labelled in Spanish only, and carried drawings of healthy carrots and potatoes but no pictograms indicating danger or toxicity.

Let’s worry about reality, folks, not science-fiction human-reptilian hybrids. There are evil homo sapiens on this planet. No extraterrestrial DNA needed.

Posted in Building a Better World, cancer, conspiracy theory, Earth Justice, ecology, environmental activism, freedom, global warming, history, illuminati, Jews, military, monoculture, peace activism, pesticides, politics, ridiculous beliefs, science, sustainable agriculture, torture | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Non-locality, quantum teleportation and the EPR paradox

Posted by majutsu on January 20, 2008

Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen wrote a paper in 1935 to try to prove that quantum mechanics was not a complete theory.  In classical mechanics, reality consisted of billiard balls rolling around on the pool table of space-time.  If the position, weight and speed of every particle were known at once, it would be possible to predict the future with perfect accuracy.  But quantum mechanics had replaced this clockwork view of the universe with a gambling God.  In quantum mechanics, a measurement on the same exact state did not produce the same result, half the time one thing would happen, half the time another.  Instead of definite variables with definite values, quantum mechanics had a roulette wheel of random outcomes in a given situation.  Furthermore, that inaccuracy seemed not to be due to some incompleteness of the theorem, but rather this vagueness was a fact of reality itself, made necessary by some sort of barrier to the depth to which we can peer into reality.  This barrier appeared to be caused by some sort of interaction between the measuring mind and the objective world, and this interaction was not open to investigation through physical experimental means.  This barrier is known as the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.  As noted above, in the classical view, if the position and momentum (mass times speed) of every particle were known at once, then everything from then on would be known with no uncertainty.  But nature places limits on us so that we cannot have such certainty.  It turns out that if we know the position, we cannot know the momentum accurately.  Or, vice versa, if we know the momentum, we cannot know the position accurately.  This necessary uncertainty has something to do with the fact the we are trying to gather all this information for our mind’s use.  Without a mind trying to correlate the momentum and the position, both can be measured accurately with no problem, but it is the mind’s involvement in the process that makes the variables we are trying to measure entangled.  These seemingly unrelated physical properties become entangled with mind stuff and are no longer free events.  Reality and outcomes of its measurement have been molded somehow by interaction with the observing mind.  Absolute determinism of the future is avoided because of this interaction with our universe.  Or another way to see it, without the mind there would be no free will.

So Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen wrote a paper which set up an experimental situation known as the EPR paradox.  Certain types of radioactive particles will decay into mirror image twin particles going in opposite directions.  So the twin particles resulting from the decay will have the same mass but equal and opposite momentums.  So let us imagine Alice on the west coast and Bob on the east coast.  We will put a radioactive emitter in the Midwest halfway between them so that the particles reach Alice and Bob at the same time.  So if Alice measures mass, she knows Bob’s particle has the same mass, so we know the mass of Bob’s particle from Alice’s measurement.  If Bob measures the momentum of the particle he gets, then we know the mass and momentum of Bob’s particle, violating the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, right?  It turns out that Bob is unable measure his momentum correctly.  Somehow Alice’s measurement of a particle on the west coast has an instant non-local effect on Bob’s measurement of a different particle on the east coast.  If Alice doesn’t make any measurement, then Bob is able to measure the position or the momentum as he pleases.  This is called a paradox because it violates our simple ideas about reality.

The EPR paradox is not just a what-if, but has been verified several times experimentally in the laboratory using polarized photons.  The EPR paradox and non-locality are a fact.  Quantum reality exists in states.  In the example we gave above, there are two states: [Alice knows momentum, Bob can’t know position], [Alice knows position, Bob can’t know momentum].  Either one of these states is possible initially.  It is Alice’s intent to correlate these two measurements, to have forbidden knowledge of the future, that instantly affects physical reality on the east coast where Bob is, so as to prevent that trespass of Alice’s.  It is therefore Alice’s will and mind that glue together at once points across the country and around the globe.  If we instead put Bob on Alpha Centauri, we can see that Alice actually affects the reality of the whole universe at once.

The non-locality and entanglement illustrated by the EPR paradox also make teleportation possible.  Another set of entangled variables (besides position and momentum) is the quantum spin on the x axis and the quantum spin on the z axis.  If we know the quantum state occupied by a particle, we may make a copy of that particle.  Knowledge of the full quantum state of a particle includes knowledge of its spin states.  If we can teleport one particle, we can do it with many, then a mouse, a dog, a cat or a human!  Normally we cannot know x and z spin at the same time because of their entanglement.  But instead of seeing entanglement as a barrier to an outdated view of the universe, we can use entanglement to achieve teleportation.  Here is how we can use quantum entanglement to make a copy.  Alice performs a x-spin measurement on her particle.  She sends the result of the measurement to Bob by classical means like a laser pulse (this can only be done at the speed of light or less so as to not violate relativity).  After Bob receives the measurement information, he opens his particle box, and performs his z-axis measurement.  The measurement itself will make a perfect copy of Alice’s particle appear in Bob’s locality after the proper quantum transformation.  This is called quantum teleportation.  Two papers of theory were written on this subject in 2004, and successful teleportation of atoms has occurred in the lab already.

To understand the EPR paradox and quantum teleportation, it is necessary to abandon the view that reality is made of chunks of space-time with the four forces (gravity, electromagnetism, strong and weak nuclear) acting between two local, touching points in space-time.  Instead, all of reality is a complex vibration that may condense locally into certain physical objects with discrete bands of measured variables.  Like acoustic frequencies, the quantum state waveforms of reality are separated into discrete bands of frequencies by this condensation into physical objects and measurement by the mind, much like the equalizer on a stereo separates an audio frequency into response bands.  This discrete banding of waveforms makes measure variables in quantum physics have certain jumps in value which has been confirmed experimentally and is the source of the term quantum (meaning chunk, not smooth).  From the EPR paradox and non-locality, we learn that the whole universe is vibrating in unison at once, and at any point where mind acts, the color and sound of this wave changes at once in the whole universe, and the objects and measured properties that condense from this song are also changed at once to some degree at every point in space from then on.

Posted in consciousness, hallucinogens, illuminati, mysticism, science, secular humanism, Uncategorized, war on drugs, witchcraft | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

F. David Peat and the Pari Center: Creating the New Paradigm

Posted by honestpoet on January 17, 2008

I’m adding this link to my blogroll, under Building a Better World. This physicist is exploring the basis for our conception of the world, and he’s doing so using both physics and linguistics, which I think is fascinating. He’s really interested in creating a new paradigm, a new understanding, that will help us move forward. I’m all for that!

Majutsu found this guy while investigating some interesting ideas for an essay he’s thinking of writing. Mr. Peat and the Center surfaced while he was looking into the potential consciousness of agents we might not normally consider capable of such a process. What’s very cool is that what Maj is discovering is that science seems to be confirming what my own intuition has been telling me experientially: that Mind is immanent.

Posted in Building a Better World, consciousness, language, science | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Song of Anat

Posted by majutsu on January 15, 2008

Please abandon fear. Realize that everyone is divine. We all live in a world spun of language, imagery, and sheer vibration emanating from us that we embed in every vase, wall, plant or animal around us. These beings, the company we keep in our heads and in the world we choose to live in, are fabricated out of the music of our hearts. The song we sing from the center of our skulls, deep in the pituitary, pumping out serotonin, neuroepinephrine, dopamine like a giant umbrella of psychedelic eminence, radiating pastel skies, rage, sadness and joy in undulating protrusions. Not only does this song ring in our ears as sound, but sings in our eyes as light, and our nose as smell. Hormonal waves ripple emotion and physical throbbing through our bodies in cycles of minutes, hours and years. We do yoga all day, how we hold our spine, whether we look down in command, surveying our creation in confidence, or look up in awe, mothered by the great divine. Small to large we are a continuous pole of vibration living in a world of vibrating beings, some made by us, some made by others. We are also made by others, and our children spiritual and physical make others. We are one and we are many, carving each other with our song. Remember we are free to move. We are free to be crazy. We are free to smash myths. We are free to give sex to all beings, as many or as few as we desire, to sing of love as we please. We are also free to break morals, to lie, to cheat, to take without permission from those screaming in pain. Or instead, we are free to plant love, to raise all up to be the radiant stars of divinity they are but have forgotten. The cultural symbols of the past drift through us like seaweed along with our personal song waving through the waters of life we shroud ourselves in. Despite your habits and your wrappings, your bonds, remember your freedom. Sex is rhythm, work is rhythm, breathing is rhythm, let your song and your love be pure. Rise queen. Rise king. Take to your throne as lord of the universe. You are god. Sing into being a world of beauty. Your lover is waiting for you to remember who you are. Break through that wall, overcome that hurdle, abandon that fear, cut loose those chains. Remember who you are. You are god. Sing loudly. Sing strong. Sing peace. Sing so no one lies in any gutter, no one falls in any fear, no one trembles afraid, unloved. To let a soul go down unloved is the only sin I know, because you failed as the lord to not create beauty and peace. To let such wrong blacken your world is to throw down your crown and roll in the despair of amnesia. A divine being powerless to sing love deep into the four directions? I love you and I miss you so much, my great one. Arise and take your crown. Dispense your song and dance your dance. Beat the drum of your world loudly, for you are god.

Posted in beauty, Building a Better World, Earth Justice, ecology, evolution, freedom, gay rights, hallucinogens, illuminati, Islam, Jesus, Jews, kabbalah, Muslims, mysticism, poetry, power of love, prayer, religion, science, secular humanism, witchcraft | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Global Warming’s Hitting Home for those in the Far North

Posted by honestpoet on April 15, 2007

Here’s an article for all those neocon dolts who insist that global warming is some sort of liberal conspiracy to make Bush look bad (or whatever ridiculous belief causes their resistance to the truth). It’s about Inuit hunters and other indigenous folks of the far north (and the wildlife they coexist with) having trouble with the thinning ice.

QALUIT, Nunavut – Inuit hunters are falling through thinning ice and dying. Dolphins are being spotted for the first time. There’s not enough snow to build igloos for shelter during hunts.

As scientists work to establish the impact of global warming, explorers and hunters slogging across northern Canada and the Arctic ice cap on sled and foot are describing the realities they see on the ground. Three of them recently spoke to The Associated Press.

“This is really ground zero for global warming,” said Will Steger, a 62-year-old Minnesotan who has been traveling the region for 43 years and has witnessed the impact of warming on the 155,000 indigenous people of the Arctic.

“This is where a culture has lived for 5,000 years, relying on a very delicate, interconnected ecosystem and, one by one, small pegs of that ecosystem are being pulled out.”

Read more.

It’s time to get serious about ameliorating our impact. Go here and sign a petition to encourage caps on emissions. Let’s reclaim our planet for all its inhabitants.

Posted in ecology, global warming, peace, politics, ridiculous beliefs, science | 6 Comments »

Introducing Majutsu, My Husband

Posted by honestpoet on March 6, 2007

He posted this in a comment to my last post, but I thought this deserved to be read on its own:

You know what’s really funny? That this show [“The Lost Tomb of Jesus”] was widely watched and has generated a lot of curiosity and interest in jesus and his teachings. This interest has been generated in precisely those far removed from christ, such as atheists, the very nihilistic, those least reached in the last twenty or so years. If a christian cared about lost souls, they would approach this like follows, “It’s good to see you so excited about jesus the man. Don’t you wonder now what he taught and why so many base their life on his teachings? Why don’t you come to our church and talk about jesus and his life?” Oddly enough though, at a time when a couple hundred thousand to a million people, formerly very closed to god and christ, were opened up all at once and thirsting for knowledge about the teachings of jesus, how were they rewarded? By being reminded in the press and blogs that christians could give two shits about saving people. They want to condemn, to damn to eternal fire, the producer, the archaeologist, the network. . . They were reminded that christians want only to micro-control thought and other people’s lives. The proof is the opportunity for dialog that was lost — ignored. We may conclude from this that there is apparently no christian joy or close relationship with the divine to share. There really is only perpetual hatred and a false sense of self built on enjoying, with fantastic embellished imagery, the control and torment of others. Christianity is after the religion of the Roman Empire, the worship of jesus and the holy roman emperor in rome as divine. And the Romans were the Nazis of the ancient world. True to their heritage as cruel tyrants, the faithful christians walled themselves up, covering their eyes and ears, shrieking that their sole possession, their tattered rags of borrowed thoughts, was being dragged into the street, leaking out of the control of their balled little fists. Unfortunately for the christian, if there is a god, she sends rain down to the good and the evil. To wish your neighbor to be parched and dying of thirst every time it rains means that with every single drop that falls you again fail the ultimate test of faith, to be willing to be part of this one life, this being. This is the sort of sin that really matters, not violating undecipherable precepts of rotting books.

Ain’t that the truth.

Posted in anti-establishment clause, atheism, Christianity, Christianofascism, fundamentalism, history, Jesus, mental illness, politics, prayer, ridiculous beliefs, Romans, science, secular humanism, separation of church and state, the Bible | 5 Comments »