Posted in Agnosticism, Art, Atheism, Blasphemy, Everyday life, Family, Human Rights, Humor, Morality, Movies, Music, Neuroscience, Politics, Religion, Science, The Conscious Disbeliever

Neil deGrasse Tyson on Moyers and Company

Caught the first of three parts over at the Why Is Evolution True blog. I enjoyed this series of interviews very much, so I decided to post all three.

Cannot wait for the new Cosmos to air!

Oh! And if you care to watch, this is the link for live streaming of today’s Bill Nye vs Ken Ham Debate, it starts at 7 PM ET (1 AM CET). Go Science Guy!

See you next time.

Posted in Agnosticism, Atheism, Blasphemy, Everyday life, Family, Humor, Neuroscience, Science, The Conscious Disbeliever


Fred Ott's Sneeze (film by William K.L. Dickson)
Fred Ott’s Sneeze (film by William K.L. Dickson) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When somebody sneezes, most people respond in an automatic fashion with a “Bless You”, “Gesundheit” or something along those lines. The person who sneezes does not say anything immediately  after sneezing.

As a noisy bodily function you could expect the person who sneezes to say “excuse me” as when one burps, but no.

We have made this response to a sneeze a part of everyday etiquette and do not pause to ask ourselves why we do it.

Where does this come from?

The response to sternutation has its origins in superstition. Long before germ theory, it was thought that our life was intimately connected to our breath, so when one sneezed, there was an increased risk of death. In other stories it was believed that the act of sneezing expelled a demon from the person’s body and the phrase “bless you” was said in an attempt to avoid the demon from reentering the person who had just exorcised himself through the power of the sternutation. Some believed that heart stopped when sneezing or that your eyes could pop out. Pope Gregory the Great during the 6th century ordered prayer for those suffering from the plague and a “God Bless You” for those that sneezed as a wish that they would not fall to the plague. And from this we acquired the custom.

This habit is so ingrained in society, that even though we know it serves no purpose and is rooted in ancient superstition, I find myself saying Gesundheit or an equivalent. Well, sometimes I can fight it back and remain silent.

All over the world there are responses to sneezing that relate to blessings or to health.

I think that the person who sneezes should excuse themselves, just as they do after a burp.

Sneezing is a bodily function that most times serves the purpose of expelling a foreign particle that irritates the nasal mucosa, other times it can be the manifestation of  an infection such as the flu or  cases like photic sneezing (“sun sneezing”), just the expression of a higher sensitivity to visual stimuli or rarer situations like snatiation or even sneezing due to sexual ideation or orgasm (take a look at this great post by Dr. Mark Griffiths called “Sneezy does it: Sex, sneezing, and sneezing fetishes”).

What one should really do  is face away from other people and sneeze into a handkerchief o tissue paper, if this is not available then into the pit of your elbow to avoid possible transmission of disease.

And in my profession sometimes I have to sneeze into a mask causing worry as what should be done. It is said that I should just sneeze into the mask facing the wound. And in light of this article, it seems the proper thing to do.

Some will think that wanting to change this bit of everyday etiquette is of no use and is an intrusion into other people’s customs. But this custom has no use, no reason to be. I don’t see many people throwing spilt salt over their left shoulder anymore and like that custom, saying bless you or Gesundheit to a person who sneezes is just acting upon superstition.

See you next time.

Posted in Agnosticism, Atheism, Blasphemy, Everyday life, Family, Human Rights, Morality, Neuroscience, Religion, Science, The Conscious Disbeliever

A+ ? Some thoughts on Atheism+

I came across a post called What’s in a Name? (a.k.a. on Atheism+) on the Subjunctive Morality blog, and later his Confrontationalism and Bridge Burning? (More on Atheism+) post. And this took me to reading some more posts on the matter of this fledgling movement called Atheism+.

I have read with interest the various posts by famous atheists such as Greta Christina , Hemant Mehta and of course the originator of the movement (although some dispute that) Jen McCreight.

And there are more posts by the minute.

Let me start off by saying “I hate you”. I really don’t, but you are making my lapel look like a Boy Scout sash with all the different pins I must wear.

First of all, I consider myself a skeptic (sceptic for those of you in the UK) and a Freethinker. Atheism is only a subset of Freethinking and as has been said elsewhere, the dictionary atheist just does not believe in deities.

But what do I believe?

Well, in matters of what I believe you can call me a Humanist, Humanist with a capital H.

You can also call me a Bright (another one of the lapel pins I regularly wear).

Don’t get me wrong, I am an Atheist and proudly use my scarlet A.

You can be a humanist and believe in deities, but if you are a Humanist, then you are necessarily an Atheist.

If you are a Bright you are also an Atheist, the brights have a Naturalistic worldview free of supernatural and mystical elements, with corresponding ethics and morals.

International Humanist and Ethical Union Minimum Statement on Humanism:

“Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.”


In my opinion Atheism+ is Humanism but done in an outspoken manner  or as I read in a comment by Andy to this post It’s Just Atheism, Part II (or Why A+ Already Exists) “Atheism+ is Humanism on steroids”.

Symbol of the Brights
Symbol of the Brights (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just a few of the symbols I wear on my lapel (not all at the same time…I was just kidding about the sash).

We can use all the labels that we wish, but let us strive to be true Humanists with respect for the rights of others and not just have a nice declaration on paper. As a friend of mine always says “Being an atheist does not confer superpowers, you can be an atheist and also be a jerk”.

Posted in Art, Coffee, Everyday life, Neuroscience, Science, The Conscious Disbeliever

Caffeine crystals

B0008352 Caffeine crystals

Here is an image of an important part of everyday life, seen in a different light.

This picture by Annie Cavanagh and David McCarthy is impressive, and the post-processing gives life to the otherwise monochrome crystal.

Posted in Agnosticism, Atheism, Blasphemy, Everyday life, Morality, Neuroscience, Religion, Science, The Conscious Disbeliever

Francisco Mora: Déu no existeix en el món – God does not exist in the world

For those of you that speak Spanish, just click and enjoy this interview.

For those that do not..

Here is a translation (lengthy) of the interview.

Hello, welcome to “Singulars”

Our guest today,  the neuroscientist Francisco Mora explains in his latest book “El dios de cada uno” (“The God of each one”),

that one day, while walking with a 3-year-old child, he explained how flowers grow seeds, 

the child asked, “who makes the seed?”

A question that certainly we have all done, and that later we may have to respond as parents.

For Francisco Mora backed by neuroscience, God is an idea; no God exists in the world.

God exists only in the existence  of man.

But how is it that a 3-year-old child … Can ask, what person may have made them?

¿Do we inherit the belief when we are born,

in the existence of other beings like us,

but invisible forces capable of creating?

How does the brain create the idea of God,

if God is just an idea?

And if God is just an idea,

an idea is necessary? It’s a necessity?

Francisco Mora will explain this to us,

he is a neuroscientist, MD from the University of Granada,

Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Oxford,

and professor of human physiology at the University Complutense of Madrid.

Author of 15 books and over 400 scientific papers.

I will finish the “Singular” today with the performance of two students from the Liceo Conservatory.

That said, let’s start.

Welcome, Doctor, to “Singular”.

Thank you.

Thanks for returning,

because you have already been here,

when you explained how to age better,

and we put his 12 points here,

but we did not end because we missed on the time,

because we always have a problem with time control.

But today we will have adequate time and necessary, to discuss his latest book.

Doctor, you can talk about everything,

or almost everything, because you are passionate about science, culture,

and I would say that you are also a “neuroculture” activist.

So much as an activist… well yes.

This is your latest book “The God of each one.”

In this book, as we said in the presentation of the program,

you say that God exists is an idea that God created man,

and that, is an idea, or not necessary, you will tell us.

I was … I read, and I was going to start with this question:

Does God exist?

But you already told me, the book does not question this,

considering that, first,it is not timely, and, second, intellectually it is not correct.

So there I am again: What is reality?

Well, first, many thanks for the invitation,

it’s really a pleasure to be in this program,

and I have to congratulate you on how you direct the program.

So, having said that, what is reality?

Well,  reality is, if we do it very simply, what we see built by our brain.

This means the brain does not copy reality we see.

What happens is that those powers that exist in the world,

ie, electromagnetic waves, vision,

or pressure waves, which is hearing, which is sound,

or the mechanical deformation of the skin, which is touch,

and  molecules that allow us to smell and taste,

are all input information

with which the brain constructs reality largely.

How does it build it?

According to the codes that were brought along with evolution,

and have followed a fundamental law;

a law that I even call a sacred law.

It is survival,

first the person, and the species later.

That’s for me, somehow, reality,

that can lead to further qualify it in short,

with what otherwise Karl Popper noted,

saying: “Certainly what’s out there is

not the reality we see as such,

but if we assume that for men

that which we see is the goal, real,

that is different, of course,

because if we do not accept that, we can not build knowledge. ”

And is reality the same for you as for me?

That is, do we both see the same thing?

To some extent yes, and to some extent not.

From the perspective

of the construction of knowledge yes

from the perspective of emotion and feelings, no.

We have what we have come to know  as qualia,

that which separates us from each other, in concerns to reality,

they are emotional nuances.

The red you see is not the red I see.

There are nuances, but in terms of knowledge …

whether we have before us

a dog, a tree or a house,

that particular nuance, not much difference between them.

Doctor, what are ideas really?

and how does the brain build them?

Well, the ideas, what we call universal

what we call concepts, what we call many things,

actually an idea is what I abstract,

make an abstraction of reality.

When I see a tree, when I see many types of trees,

somehow my brain is ready

to abstract a construct of a tree

that is what we call an abstract.

That abstract or idea in my brain,

and which I then, apply to

each of the specific tree that I see in the world.

That is, there are large trees, there are small,

with blades of a type with other leaves,

but I maintain, without change in my brain,

it is what is called, or as Plato said,

that idea was the sensitivity,

the intelligent construct , permanent,

we have in the brain and then adapt …

in relation to each of the different types of trees that exist.

The idea, therefore, is an abstraction …

that over the last million and a half years

It has enabled me to communicate with my fellow-man

at lightning speed.

The idea that I do not have to resort to the specific

to say that I have seen a tree.

Simply say, “I saw a tree.”

And I have no idea in my head of particular tree,

it is a construct as an idea, as abstract.

But then I can adapt to any type of tree

and identify it.

Today we know in part: constructs,

or say, the neural structures …

we are building the ideas in the brain.

And that knowledge is that which leads

to distinguish a tree from a dog, a cat, a closet.

Knowledge is a distinction between ideas, and then relate them.

And why do you  say that God is an idea, then?

God is an idea.

Certainly as the tree is an idea.

Or as certainly as the horse is an idea.

But we have seen the tree.

But we have seen the tree.

And the horse too.

God does not exist in the sensory world.

No one has seen God. No one has heard from God.

And you will remember in the book to San Anselmo,

when he said …

“What I can do to find you, how I can get to you?

How can I not see you?

Why are you hiding from the light and leave me in the shadows?

What I can do?

You who are all-powerful,

and you could easily show yourself to me,

Why do you make me suffer?

Why give me life and then give me death?

At that, obviously,

the issue between the idea of ​​tree and the idea of ​​God

is that being an abstract idea of the tree,

but also that of God be so,

the tree is built because there is something concrete where it left off,

and I constantly make a dialogue with my brain

we agree to say:

“That’s a tree” and we call that real.

And the idea of God. The idea of ​​God is ethereal.

The idea of God is not contrasted with the reality.

The idea of God is that, an idea … swollen,

a sense of emotion and feeling warm,

but beyond that,

it is an idea that has been amassed

throughout history and cultures,

which means thousands of years since the human being conceived it.

And that leads us away from that reality.

Therefore we say that God is not real as such,

because our brain can not compare it with reality.

And that, you will say is pure Francisco Mora philosophy.

And I say to you: “Yes.”

Not, Francisco Mora, that’s Hume, Immanuel Kant that is,

when he said that with ideas like God

we could never reach their knowledge,

because for knowledge you need ideas contrasted with reality.

And even more, he says, think that with ideas like God …

we can attain knowledge of God – that Kant said –

It is as if I pick up my checking account, I put some zeros and I’m a millionaire.

The end of God… Is the end of man the end of God?

This is how we see it from the perspective of science,

or from the perspective of neuroscience.

You know this story, in the construction of the book,

has two parts:

those where we talk about God and entertain the idea God,

in a world fraught with that idea,

which becomes real only because

it has been written about,and talked about

and we have parked that reality

we have consistently  ratified and said:

“This book is real,” because we agree that it is multisensory,

we can see and touch.

God is not. Not so.

And the idea, then,

remains in the final construct that I call religion,

in the sense that if true

that we can not find the idea of God in the world,

there is always a residue, in every human being,

believe or disbelief in God,

looking to ask,

in some cultures up, and other down,

“What is this?”

I remember the words of Einstein,

when he said,

astonished himself,

someone who did not believe in a personal God,

saying: “This is something beyond me,

I do not understand the universe.

What I do understand is that it is not a personal God,

not a god who punishes and gives rewards

not a God who provides,

and to some gives immortality and not to others. ”

So I think this idea that we have within

this religiosity,

which results in some religion,

and other leads to God

and others are left with this feeling of,

somehow, as Einstein said:

“Let the weak of mind

embrace this other idea,

either because they are afraid,

either because they are extremely selfish. ”

But doctor … with what you say,

making is that if we look at the sky, we find only despair.

To some extent it is.

To some extent yes,

because we have changed thousands of years

not to criticize or discuss what was in books.

Because God was born with writing.

And of course the writing has always been something almost sacred.

Something hardly debatable. What are the holy books?

Does the testimony of a god appeared

1.300 years ago,

or a thousand, or a thousand-odd,

or later someone says he has seen God,

when that was not discussed?

That’s what they say the sacred books.

But what are the books?

Books are always testimony of what man has written.

With his knowledge, his imagination, his good will,

or your profound criticism, that is the history of philosophy,

but they are books written by man.

For me there is no book

written as a real testimony of what could have happened

in a magical world, as it was a thousand years ago.

No, the books that are now built …

whether, or at least those who write the scientists,


Because we build them subject to a rule,

a method, which is unquestionable.

In this method we call the scientific method.

The scientific method is to look at something,

set up a hypothesis about what may be what I have seen,

and on that experiment.

and realize that when I return to what I have seen,

I was wrong with my hypothesis,

and as I say the myth of Sisyphus.

When I thought I discovered something with my science,

reality gives me two slaps,

the stone falls, and begun again.

Never reach the truth.

Popper demonstrates that

found a long and respected book,

not reach the truth,

but that and our fate as it was with Moses,

what happens is that Moses was pursuing that end,

science and today we realize

that the end is in your own walk,

in walking forward,

in respect others.

Since we do not have the light of reality,

can become reality in doing good to others,

our children,

keep walking, because we do not reach further,

and that is the fate of human beings as I see it.

Speaking of scientists, speaking of scientific methods.

How do you explain that scientists of the importance of Pasteur

and Francis Collins, director of the human genome project,

say they believe in God and that God exists?

Well, that perspective …

We could say many more scientists.

No doubt you found that I have set,

perhaps, indeed, are the opposite, actually.

You see, scientists are part of the human world.

And there are scientists, of course, with deep beliefs,

not necessarily have to be held

by the argument that I do in my book.

Because there’s that other part of which we have not spoken, faith.

What is faith? Faith is a deep feeling.

A feeling that if we divide humanity …

and can be done in two parts,

some people are, say, with a predetermination …

to believe in, as you mentioned at the beginning of the introduction,

about the child said Juan, animism.

That is, it has to be someone,

not something,

that somehow gives meaning to all this.

And faith is a feeling like I say, it can be …

the feeling one has towards a child.

Towards a friend.

Or to someone who has done something as enlightening

that I can devote my life as it does many people,

to that idea.

And faith can also take what we call the idea of ​​God.

You can take it, because that is not debatable,

ie you can not argue faith is something that takes you.

I definitely think that with Kant the idea of ​​God as real existence

has no more to discuss.

It’s there, we can not achieve it.

But I leave the door open to what we call agnosticism,

this “true I can not get to prove it”

but there is a window that is possible at the end,

that such a thing happen.

And that’s what faith by many people believe they can go.

Scientists often wonder:

Can knowledge be attained through faith?

And the answer is no.

You stay in sentiment.

You stay with what we said a great Jesuit friend of mine.

It says “Faith is a gamble in life.

True or not, is a gamble,

and that bet may be wrong.

And certainly, I, a Jesuit, I doubt constantly.

Maybe it’s the faith that makes me overcome those doubts I have.

But in any case I can tell you:

what I have clear is that, in this situation,

I think the it is the best bet  to do. ”

That is what can sustain many scientists.

He said: “Faith is not knowledge.”

In history we can find cases of people

who through faith have been able to deepen their faith.

Yes, but we understand knowledge …

what the brain construct our understanding of reality,

ie the construction of what I see is the horse,

it is the crocodile or the elephant,

Faith does not give that knowledge about God.

Faith is an “I believe”

and deeply, and as so many people,

may retire to a monastery and give their life

through that feeling for that idea.

But no, I repeat,

we have seen that horse that is knowledge,

or the elephant that is knowledge.

That is something that is there.

And that something is there as an idea,

you said at the beginning and what Kant said,

is something that has been enormously helpful

survival of the human species.

The necessary idea.

The idea needed for thousands of years.

And what most people ask is this.

Is it still as necessary as that idea?

And I answer: For many people yes.

To many people, no.

Hence, basically have to build

what we call respect.

Respect for the dignity,

with faith they feel good,

with faith they feel full,

faith gives meaning to their life,

And who does not?

And none of them an inch, a millimeter, further away …

than it is to have no real knowledge of the existence of God.

Speaking of respect, and doing a small jump,

When  you think that from the Vatican

the calls to people in the middle Africa

 dying of AIDS to not use condoms,

do they respect?

Do they respect them?


Well look, I think not.

They are not respected,

in the sense that you only have to go to America

and see how Americans think,

who are believers in 80% relative to the population,

they  are critical of aspects that

science factually shows.

Look, the condom has saved many lives.

Until people are educated

in terms of having real knowledge of what that means,

that is, transmit the virus,

we must use the condom.

Professor, in his book,

you pages devoted strength

to talk about? Abraham and Moses to speak.

But not engaged, if I mistake not, to speak of Jesus.

Of Jesus Christ. Why?

Are you getting me in trouble.

“Jaumes”, eh … Jaume.

Why? Because basically my idea …

was going to the origin of the idea of God.

Therefore, Jesus, or Jesus Christ,

a messiah, a transmitter of the idea of God,

in this context,

I did not think was the figure that I could look for in my book.

Abraham or Moses were the original,

Abraham first, speaking in a polytheistic world,

first perhaps

the idea of one God, it is curious.

But the exegete, who has deep knowledge of the text,

as we say it is an ambiguous figure,

in this area between polytheistic and monotheistic.

And certainly conceived the idea of Him,

the God of Abraham.

That is funny because according to the texts …

God was very different from the God of Moses.

God was the friend, was the God with whom one could talk,

God was the understanding, was the God who, as described,

you could sit with him, just chatting.

Against the God of Moses, so in my book I say:

Is it the same God? And I say no.

The conception of the God of Moses

is a wrathful God, a God with aggression,

is a god that is something that today would be deeply criticized;

that decision to say: “You, in front of  the rest of humanity,

are my children, you are the chosen,

and wherever you go,

Destroy what you see.

Destroy the rocks, destroy the idols,

Destroy a people, destroy everything that moves.

For I am with you always. ”

A God …

was conceived as genuinely universal.

And powerful.

But all benevolent and omniscient,

Could he say “you are my son, and you are not,

and you can be destroyed by my son “?

From the critical perspective now its very difficult to understand that God.

And we believe that God was

which was becoming the God of Christianity.

Did Moses exist?

It is a difficult question,

obviously I’m no expert,

beyond reading the literature.

Azmel, one of the most knowledgeable in the field,

comes to actually say that there is nothing …


that somehow we trace the true existence of God.

Sorry, Moses.

And if the character Moses existed somehow in origin,

what does seem clear, again for the exegete of this figure,

is that it has been built with  Jewish history.

That is, has been put on flesh,

has been built as a true leader

and you can still go further,

when at the end, when we talk about this Moses,

in Deuteronomy we painted, indeed,

as he who dies at 120 years, the biblical age of death,

full of force and vigor.

And God says: “To here.”

And according to some writings of Roman exegetes, very interesting,

turned to God and said, “Why did you make me die so young?”

And He says, “For I have said it

that man will die,

since it is not part of my spirit and made of flesh. ”

And what it really says

is that he really died, yes.

Not because God decided for him to die,

but because a rebellion,

as with any dictator,

killed him before entering Jerusalem.

And that is read in many authors,

that somehow are highly respected.

Obviously there is no finding that,

but is taken by many authors from reading texts.

Whoever believes that Jesus was? A leader?

Well I think that Jesus,

as we paint, was a messiah.

And indeed as such is respected by the Jewish people.

A messiah, that is, someone who passed once more,

the idea of ​​… of a universal god.

But in the times of Jesus Christ,

indeed, except that we discuss …

who understand this well,

came into the world saying “The world is coming to an end!

And so, somehow,

we have to redeem our sins

if we meet him. ”

That was Jesus, and somehow,

Jesus, or Jesus Christ,

model in its construction was also

this need,

if we believe in almost everything we have been

the … going to say the churches,

Western religions,

build it with flesh, hence the resurrection.

Today science can not admit that there is no resurrection,

because there is no supernatural.

It’s all part of this world.

Everything is a built piece

with physics, chemistry,

and what are the codes in place in our brain.

And there you have Stephen Hawking when he says …

that the universe is itself unique,

and there is no need of a  God to  explain the origin.

And there you have Charles Darwin,

when we said he was a believer and ended up not believing.

Realizing that biological evolution

is a product of chance,

the mutation of our genes randomly,

and determining the environment

which directs how evolution goes.

So Francisco Ayala, ex-dominico said:

“You do not need any God to explain the appearance of man.”

In this context we arrive at neuroscience,

where we believe that the constructs of religion

codes are in our brains,

not dedicated to building a god or religion,

but part of the systems

distributed throughout the cerebral cortex,

engaged in many things.

Listening with great interest, Francisco Mora you know,

many things come to mind, and one of them is:

What about the Gospels, and the ten commandments

and the Bible, and miracles, and the saints?

Is it all made up, like a play,

a script for a magnificent film?

You see, I always say … that words hurt.

That words, somehow,

implemented in dry dock

can hurt as deeply as a bite.

If we say that the Bible is like a script for a movie,

can hurt many people, Jaume.

And what is true that the Bible is the construct of a people.

A people who has allowed, with this idea and this construct

survive, and are still with that idea.

I believe the Bible is the product of a people

who has distinguished himself with their god from the rest of the world.

And indeed it still is.

Therefore, as such, has the enormous respect we deserve.

But obviously in this context

has no vision, we’ve said before,

in fact,

found to build reality.

But that is what you’re saying …

that what is written is not based on reality.

Exactly that.

Therefore said it was a script.

Ah, I understand.

But a Script …

You say: The Bible is an invention. Its invented.

Is exaggerated, is … It is built …

No, on the basis that we have discussed, no doubt,

I mean it has no foundation in reality,

not, has the authority that every book ever written has,

and above all a book of 1.300 years ago.

Obviously, that has an authority,

but it is substance in the magical world in which it was built,

not in the scientific and critical world.

Today no god appears ,

or God, no Moses, in the scientific world.

In the critical world.

And we all know.

Why did God appear at the time, and not these?

Again I retake San Anselmo:

“Where are you?”

If there is a reality that is not what builds my brain.

And that story, again, is the first part of our book,

related to a world saturated with God

actually charged on the basis that it was written in the books,

and all talk about it.

Today when we say a book is no more – not less –

that what man has written,

because man is this, man is the mirror constant

of everything you see, what you learn and what they memorized.

And the book has been observed as sacred,

but you do not go far,

to realize what has meaning for people,

it is written in a book,

as saying: “That is truly really extraordinary.”

Today we know that criticism …

is allowing us to go for,

and I told you before,

not to find the truth,

because, as Popper said the truth is falsifiable;

is something we are constantly building, without reaching a result,

but it is the way that dignifies us as human beings.

And with that criticism, to the truth,

books have what they have as sacred,

that we have already spoken about.

Mr Francisco Mora, you also, in his book,

speaks of some saints,

and says he must have suffered an illness.

For example, Paul.


Epilepsy, others speak of schizophrenia …

Right. Right. And here is again the same.

I mean, there are key characters,

as Paul, Paul of Tarsus

that, on that trip that we know, to Damascus

had a seizure, if this was so.

Why talk like this?

Because we have no inference that what has been written

Certainly there are many serious studies, deep,

medical pathobiographies,

trying to see and analyze through written,

through letters to the Corinthians,

actually suffered, all as described

an epileptic seizure.

We now know that this type of epilepsy,

the so-called psychogenic epilepsy,

produces a profound, inexorable, belief in God,

constant talk of God,

and everything revolves around that belief.

Today we know that Paul was part of a builder,

or was a solid builder

of what we call, of that great religion which is Christianity.

And in that context, someone who says “I came down from heaven …

and I saw something that I can not describe,

and actually has an absorbent personality

in that of religion,

that 50% of the world I would say,

having the predisposition to belief,

it is something so real,

as he who is skeptical about it.

Professor,why are we here?

Give meaning to our life in the walk.

That is, find the meaning in others,

for many,

with respect for those who find it in the idea of God.

and for those who do not have the idea of ​​God,

or at least we have realized that  through science

that is an idea and it is difficult for us to hold on to it,

especially when through history we have seen

that this idea has been manipulated,

that this idea has been a weapon of power,

that through this idea

so many thousands and thousands and thousands of human beings have died,

through wars,

which has been manipulated,

then, at that, what remains, what is?

realize that what has sacred value

is life itself.

You, me, my son with me, the other with me,

that is, walk together,

I repeat what I said before,

as Moses did hoping for the promised land.

In our case this walk has to be very patient,

and find meaning in our children,

and the respect we owe each other.

Francisco Mora, now, we will,

talk … two questions if you will,

a great little book about her,

called “El bosque de los pensmientos.”

Thank you, very much.

I’ve made  some questions

I have marked them with colored papers,

because it seemed right,

as you, for some time,

spoke of in your books,

announced you would make a book

devoted to discuss whether or not God exists.

And one of those I’ve mentioned,


“Every human being makes a dream when he dies.

A dream that develops and works throughout his life.

accumulated sleep

with which it has created the world he has never seen. “

What dream?

The dream of the imagination,

the dream that there is something that overwhelms us and we do not understand.

a dream in a few other things

I said, “Yes, I will die, and that is indisputable.

But I would like leave for others, written

what I’ve seen, what I thought,

and that somehow has flooded in the rest,

this world is still worth living it.

Another thought: Can one imagine a society …

in which there is no individuality

or privacy of its members? 

Very difficult but I put it there, right?

Is it possible to read the feelings?

Well …

And thoughts?

Neuroscience is beginning to look at the brain

in the sense of having tool capable  and

able at least I can say,

without asking you,

and hit, 90%,

If you are thinking of faces,

If you are thinking of people,

If you are thinking of houses, or if you …

That and we reach it.

And indeed to some extent there are instruments

that the justice system is following very carefully,

because it would be an extraordinary gain

to diagnose  a psychopath murderer.

And in this dimension that is where we’re moving into,

but will we come to a world where there is no privacy?

I do not conceive it.

Because we hardly ever know

how that could be built,

when almost all the limits, we are locked

in having built a society

based on that I do not know what’s behind your forehead,

and you don’t know what’s behind me.

Perhaps you, like neurologists who see far beyond

know how we will end this program, I’ve already announced,

and we will do something to feel, to get excited.

Doctor, we come to the end to the program today …

We have a very unique and good presentation,

a fragment of “Duet de les flors”…

from the opera “Lakmé” by Leo Delibes

interpreted by Carmen Mateo, soprano,

and Cristina Segura, mezzo-soprano

accompanied by Ana Creixells on the piano.

Posted in Agnosticism, Atheism, Everyday life, Family, Morality, Neuroscience, Politics, Religion, Science, The Conscious Disbeliever

Frans de Waal: Moral behavior in animals

“If you ask anyone, what is morality based on? These are the two factors that always come out: One is reciprocity, … a sense of fairness, and the other one is empathy and compassion.”

Frans de Waal

Posted in Everyday life, Morality, Neuroscience, Science, The Conscious Disbeliever

The Zombie Within : 13.7: Cosmos And Culture : NPR

English: A zombie
English: A zombie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Zombie Within : 13.7: Cosmos And Culture : NPR.


A very interesting post about free will that I believe goes well with some of my previous thought on the theme.

I enjoyed how Alva Noë gives us another look at the concept of free will. The definition, in my humble opinion, should be revised.


See you next time.



Posted in Agnosticism, Art, Atheism, Coffee, Everyday life, Humor, Morality, Music, Neuroscience, Religion, Science, The Conscious Disbeliever

What is left for non-believers

Australian author Lynne Kelly sure sums it up nicely. She only made one major oversight…she forgot to put coffee in her phrase to make it perfect.

She is author of many books, including A Skeptics Guide to the Paranormal, Spiders: Learning to Love Them, as well as Crocodile: Evolutions Greatest Survivor

Posted in Agnosticism, Atheism, Everyday life, Morality, Neuroscience, Religion, Science, The Conscious Disbeliever

Borrowed Morality

Code of laws of Hammurabi. Louvre museum, Middle East antiques.

Most Christians say that Atheists borrow their morality from the Bible. Without the enlightened teachings of the Bible, we would be no more than instinctive animals, killing and raping, our daily deeds.

Well, let us take a brief step back in time. The revelation to Moses at Mount Sinai took place around 1312 BCE or another possible time was 1280 BCE. It is assumed by modern biblical scholars that the written books were done during the exile from Babylon 600 BCE and it took around 200 years to complete.

It looks like the Torah has been around for a very long time. If we take the earliest possible time for the revelation to Moses, that would be 3324 years ago. So that would take us to believe that humanity before this was nothing but an uncivilized rabble.

So let us concede, for the sake of argument, that there were no moral codes before the era of the beginning of written history in Mesopotamia around 3100 BCE. What happened from this point on, until the revelation and later writing of the Torah? Did humanity live as savages for close to 18 centuries?

The Egyptians had Maat as a concept of truth, balance, order,law, morality and justice around 2375 BCE and 2345 BCE, although there are little surviving writings on the way of practice of ancient Egyptian law.

We don’t know about earlier codes, but the first legal code in recorded history is attributed to Urukagina, who reigned Lagash in Mesopotamia from 2380 BCE to 2360 BCE.

Assuredly the most famous set of laws from antiquity must be the Code of Hammurabi, enacted by the sixth Babylonian king, Hammurabi about 1772 BCE. It had 282 laws dealing with a diversity of situations of daily life, including things like marriage, commerce, slavery, divorce, among others. It also has one of the most famous laws in article 196:

If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out. [ An eye for an eye ]

So it seems that long before the revelation to Moses and even more so than the written Torah, there were codes of conduct not derived from  this text.

Well, the problem is you are not using the Christian Bible and are forgetting the Golden Rule.

OK, lets take a look at the most famous of rules, the ethics of reciprocity, that has been attributed to Jesus of Nazareth: “Therefore all things whatever you would that men should do to you, do you even so to them: for this is the law of the prophets.” Matthew 7:12 or “And as you would that men should do to you, do you also to the likewise.” Luke 6:31.

Well, it seems others got to that conclusion a bit before the times of Jesus of Nazareth.

Zigong asked, “Is there a single saying that one may put into practice all one’s life?”

The Master said, “That would be ‘reciprocity’: That which you do not desire, do not do to others.”

Confucius(551–478 BCE) Analects XV.24

“Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.”

Buddha (Siddhārtha Gautama 563 – c. 483 BCE )Udanavarga 5:18

Or maybe, just maybe, Confucius and Buddha were the so called prophets Jesus referred to in scripture?

Most inevitably, even in tribal societies well before the bronze age, there was an intuition towards this rule. It would not be a very large stretch of the mind, even the primitive one, to consider that being killed is not very good. So if I don’t want to be killed, I suppose that my neighbor does not want to be killed either. It is just plain common sense; although I have heard that common sense is the least common of the senses. And the list would go on and on of things that we would not like done to ourselves.

Understanding morality as a set of rules, a code to determine what is good or what is bad for an individual and a group, makes it easy to see how this can come about without divine intervention. A sense of fairness , the so called “Fellow-Feeling” of Adam Smith, must have evolved as a necessity of human groups as a means to achieve more cooperation between its members. This has been imprinted on our brains.

Being fair, moral, is evolutionarily sound as it benefits the collective.

As I stated in a previous post called Freewill, the network within our material brain is hardwired through nature and nurture to respond and have the ability to acquire new information and adjust the decision process accordingly. The areas that intervene in this decision making process are mainly the posterior superior parietal lobe (pSPL) and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) in value-guided decisions.

Aside from the aforementioned cortical areas, there is another cortical area called the insula, that has been shown to have a critical role on the onset of this fairness, this egalitarian behavior.

This has been studied in an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS April 9, 2012),and I quote from this paper:

“The fact that the insula is directly involved in physiological, food, and pain-related processing supports the general notion that prosocial behavior, which is important for survival of both the individual and the group/species, is implemented on a fundamental physiological level similar to breathing, heartbeat, hunger, and pain.”

And the fact that this was grasped in the writings of Hippocrates back in 400 BCE is astounding.

Men ought to know that from nothing else but the brain come joys, delights, laughter and sports, and sorrows, griefs, despondency, and lamentations. And by this, in an especial manner, we acquire wisdom and knowledge, and see and hear, and know what are foul and what are fair, what are bad and what are good, what are sweet, and what unsavory; some we discriminate by habit, and some we perceive by their utility.

          HippocratesOn the Sacred Disease

So why look up to the  heavens looking for a set of rules, or wait for somebody to give us “divinely dictated” rules on a set of stone tablets, if we have them written down on our evolved cerebral cortex? We can and do have morality without deity. Morality comes from mankind.

Yes my morality is borrowed, but not from a religion, rather from each and every human that has walked the face o the earth and has given his little grain of sand in the ongoing hourglass of evolution and progress.

see you next time.


Dawes CT, Loewen PJ, Schreiber D, et al. Neural basis of egalitarian behavior. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2012

Hippocrates (400 BCE). On the Sacred Disease. Francis Adams.

Posted in Agnosticism, Atheism, Neuroscience, The Conscious Disbeliever



Do we have freewill?

That simple question does not have a simple answer it seems, and has been cause of a centuries long matter of debate in many fields of human knowledge. It has pitted determinists and libertarians against each other for ages, with compatibilists in between.

If we look to science for an answer, the evidence is in favor of the deterministic view, as neither the libertarian o compatibilist theories pass muster.

In a strict sense we don’t have free will. Our choices are dictated by our circumstance, that is by genetics and environment. The laws of physics put constraints on our actions. In fact many of our choices, ascribed to free will, are initiated in a subconscious manner a few milliseconds before we actually think of doing them.

In the deterministic world in which we live free will is a perception. We have the sense of free will inasmuch as we do not feel externally compelled to decide or to do some action. But it is only that, an illusion, a preception. There is no Ghost in the Machine or Soul as you will, controlling our decision process but rather a series of neural circuits within a large network that are responsible for our decisions. The network within our material brain is hardwired through nature and nurture to respond and have the ability to acquire new information and adjust the decision process accordingly. The areas that intervene in this decision making process are mainly the posterior superior parietal lobe (pSPL) and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) in value-guided decisions. And in motor decisions they are originated in frontopolar cortex from where they influence the buildup of decision-related information in the precuneus  (a posteromedial portion of the parietal lobe)and later in supplementary motor cortex (SMC)

So should we abolish the concept?

Well, one thing is in vitro and a very different one is in vivo. We must strive for knowledge and understanding through science but at the same time we must preserve social coexistence. If we decide that free will, selfhood and personhood are invalid, then how can we expect a person to be subject to the norm. If each and every decision is dependent on an external force, I am responsible for nothing. And this is a very irrational argument that goes directly in contravention to basic self preservation and self interest.

So in the end we cannot throw free will in the trash even though science does not support its existence.  We have to refine the definition of free will and accept the importance it has on our day to day lives. We may have to thank cognitive polyphasia for that.  It may be an illusory state but it serves us well. Maybe it is a decision made from a neural circuit in the brain that is limited by the laws of nature, but it is MY brain. Is my brain not me?

There is much that we do not know and much more that I do not know.

See you next time.

Recommended reading

  • Fried, I., Mukamel, R., & Kreiman, G. (2011). Internally Generated Preactivation of Single Neurons in Human Medial Frontal Cortex Predicts Volition. Neuron, 69(3), 548–562. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2010.11.045Hunt L. T., Kolling, N., Soltani, A., Woolrich, M. W., Rushworth, M. F. S., & Behrens, T. E. J. (2012). Mechanisms underlying cortical activity during value-guided choice. Nature Neuroscience, 15(3), 470–476. doi:10.1038/nn.3017
    Newell, B. (2009). Can Neuroscience Inform the Free Will Debate? Indiana Undergraduate Journal of Cognitive Science.

    Pearson, J., & Platt, M. L. (2012). Dynamic decision making in the brain. Nature Neuroscience, 15(3), 341–342. doi:10.1038/nn.3049

    Soon, C. S., Brass, M., Heinze, H.-J., & Sakura, O. (2008). Unconscious determinants of free decisions in the human brain. Nature Neuroscience, 11(5), 543–545.