I suffered through…2:10:34

I suffered through the 15 April 2012 The Magic Sandwich Show , all 9 parts . Two hours, ten minutes and 34 seconds of it.

Well, not really, in fact I enjoyed it very much.

Eric Hovind and Sye Ten Bruggencate are Presuppositional apologists who as a condition for “debate” demand that you accept that everybody knows the existence of God is true.

The main presupposition is that God exists and his word is true

Sye Ten Bruggencate

If we want to be intellectually honest, I am always going to go back to the circular argument that God reveals. How do I know? God reveals. How do I know? God reveals.

Eric Hovind

You can sum this up  in the phrase  The reason for reason is God. So end of discussion. Your reason comes from God and even if you deny the existence of God in your heart you know, as everybody does that he exists. You are lying to yourself or so the contend.

This kind of apologetic proves absolutely nothing and relies on…wait a minute…

You guessed it…Faith.

Well I am so sorry, but faith does not prove a thing.

They have no argument, are not willing to have a decent confrontation of ideas. Either you agree with their point of view or you are evading the truth that lies within your heathen heart. They have no desire for debate, all they want is to have a forum where they can do a monologue. A public place to proselytize. Reason has no place with this pair. As is true of Christian Presupposition Apologetics and any other line of “thought” that demands acceptance of a fixed idea before accepting debate. The scientific method is nonexistent to them.

I most surely empathized with AronRa’s frustration and had I been participating, might also have raised my voice at them. By the way AronRa must be commended on his effort given the time difference and his throat ailment. On the other hand, I believe that letting this couple of guys blow wind and expose themselves was a very good tactic, in line with this quote:

Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.

Napoleon Bonaparte

If you have time, I recommend that you give the whole 2 hours, 10 minutes and 34 seconds of the show a good look, and if not here is the video by Thunderf00t that pretty much puts it into a nutshell:

See you next time.

Posted in Agnosticism, Religion, The Conscious Disbeliever

Atheism and Music

Much has been written about atheism and religious music. We have no hymns or anthems. Not even Steve Martin’s song gets to be our anthem.

I was listening to a bit of classical music the other day, and for a moment stopped to think of what I was listening to.

The piece in question was Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D Minor. A most beautiful piece, but as a Mass, it is full of religion.

Can we as atheists hear this kind of music and be full of joy?  I think we can and should enjoy the form and allow the meaning to slip by, just as we can when we watch a good movie or read a delightful novel. In the end we know it is fiction but the art is magnificent.

Or maybe I should go for music from the Enlightenment such as The Magic Flute also by Mozart?

Or continuing the Mozart line. Maybe  I should listen to opera buffa like Le Nozze di Figaro?

Sorry if the captions are in Spanish, but Anna Netrebko is FABULOUS.

What do you think?

Posted in Agnosticism, Atheism, Religion, The Conscious Disbeliever

Scientific evidence

 

 

According to Evidence Based Medicine (EBM), healthcare professionals should make conscientious, explicit and judicious use of current best evidence in their daily practice.1

 

 

How does one come to do this?  

Clinical practice guidelines are systematically developed statements to assist practitioners with decisions about appropriate health care for specific patients’ circumstances.2

 

 

In  medicine scientific evidence is classified as follows:

  • Level of evidence A: recommendation based on evidence from multiple randomized trials or meta-analyses
  • Level of evidence B: recommendation based on evidence from a single randomized trial or nonrandomized studies
  • Level of evidence C: recommendation based on expert opinion, case studies, or standards of care.

Once the level of evidence has been reviewed, recommendations can be made. These recommendations are also classified:

 

 

Class I: conditions for which there is evidence and/or general agreement that a given procedure or treatment is useful and effective

Class II: conditions for which there is conflicting evidence and/or a divergence of opinion about the usefulness/efficacy of a procedure or treatment

Class IIa: weight of evidence/opinion is in favor of usefulness/efficacy

Class IIb: usefulness/efficacy is less well established by evidence/opinion

Class III: conditions for which there is evidence and/or general agreement that the procedure/treatment is not useful/effective and in some cases may be harmful.

 

 

Thus, level of evidence C and class II indicate, respectively, recommendations lacking supporting evidence and those subject to uncertainties about the appropriate medical decision.3

Using techniques from science, engineering and statistics, such as the systematic review of medical literature, meta-analysis, risk benifit analysis, and randomized control trials. Ex cathedra statements by the “medical expert” are considered to be least valid form of evidence. All “experts” are now expected to reference their pronouncements to scientific studies.

 

 

Based on this set of guidelines, can we classify religious writings like the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita or for that matter any religious book?

 

 

Let us give it a whack…

 

 

Is any of these books based on multiple randomized trials or meta-analyses?

No.

One randomized trail or nonrandomized studies?

No.

Is it based on expert opinion, case studies or standar of care?

Yes  (even this Yes is up for debate)

So, according to this review, the Bible and other religious books are  a Level of evidence C.

And now, on to set the class recommendation.

Following the evidence this type of writings must be a Class III ( “Class III: conditions for which there is evidence and/or general agreement that the procedure/treatment is not useful/effective and in some cases may be harmful”.)

 

 

So if the Bible or any religious writing were subject to evaluation of scientific evidence it would ultimately be seen as Level C and Class III, not acceptable as grounds for any kind of treatment, in fact you would most likely be setting yourself up for a nice malpractice lawsuit if you based your treatment on this level of evidence.

 

 

1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidence-based_medicine

2 Lohr K, Field M. A provisional instrument for assessing clinical practice guidelines. In Guidelines for Clinical Practice From Development to Use Edited by Field M, Lohr K. Washington DC: National Academy Press; 1992.

3 Tricoci, P., Allen, J. M., Kramer, J. M., Califf, R. M., & Smith, S. C., Jr. (2009). Scientific evidence underlying the ACC/AHA clinical practice guidelines. JAMA: the journal of the American Medical Association, 301(8), 831–841. Am Med Assoc.

Posted in Agnosticism, Atheism, The Conscious Disbeliever

How much of a Catholic are you?

Translation: Your rights do not rain from the sky.
Taken from the UAAR membership campaign 2012.

I  was going through the UAAR website (Unione degli Atei e degli Agnostici Razionalisti), a page dedicated to italian atheists and agnostics and decided to take the quiz Quanto sei cattolico? ,as I am a former Catholic.

And as you would expect this is my result

My results

Link to my results

Translation:

Incredulous

Yours is not a Catholic profile. And the beauty of it, is that you know it well.

You have decided to do this test just because unbelievers are very curious, unshakable explorers of the world, and probably you had already found the space that suits you before you even started the questionnaire.

However, if you are curious to know what the ecclesiastical hierarchy teach today, you can consult the list of correct responses under the current Catholic teaching.

Visiting atheist/agnostic websites from other parts of the world give us the opportunity to improve language skills and also to get an idea of how people view these topics and not just from our own local way of looking at the issues.

You can find a few international sites in my blogroll.

Se you next time.

Posted in Agnosticism, Atheism, Neuroscience, The Conscious Disbeliever

FREEWILL

 

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.

Posted in Atheism, The Conscious Disbeliever

In God We Trust

Just finished watching In God We Trust  http://bit.ly/zzFmNB  a documentary by Scott Burdick.

I would like to thank him for this piece of work that exposes the ignorance and hypocrisy of the religious fundamentalists who insist on making the United States a Christian country.

The film also has an opportunity of showing the views of members of a few different religions (most of them equally ignorant, hypocritical and bigoted).

I would like to draw your attention to a couple of comments by a guy named Nick around  1:02:53 and 1:13:11, they are very good.

And Barry Lynn’s considerations that start at 1:18:08 are great (the guy who comes right after him is a mega-hypocrite).

This film should have everyone who lives in the Unites States very worried. And for that matter, the rest of the world should be wary.

I think that many of the people in the film should take a look at the First Amendment of the Constitution and reinforce the fact that the United States is a country founded on principles of FREEDOM and not religion. Take a look at Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli http://1.usa.gov/ygHRuf that took effect in 1797.

I believe that every single human has the right to believe or not believe in whatever they choose. Nobody has the right to impose their particular set of morals on anybody else.

Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins

Zechariah Chafee

I recommend you give the film a look and make your own conclusions.

Posted in Atheism, The Conscious Disbeliever

The Journey

The journey towards agnosticism and atheism is a personal and lonely one. It has been said elsewhere, we cannot control the things we believe in. As we gain experience and learn, our mind goes through a process of evolution. With this process our sets of beliefs change. Being a person who can read and has access to modern technology (…you are reading this blog on your computer, your tablet or smartphone), you by no means have the same beliefs as someone who does not have that privilege for example lets say the Mascho Piro tribe of amazonian Peru, who still cling to ancient ways.

As mentioned in another post, your heritage has a lot to do with your initial beliefs. Where you were born, the religion of your parents or lack of; start you off on this road. But at first the road is short and your horizons are very narrow. Once you start to acquire knowledge, the road will get longer and the extent will broaden you horizons. Many of the things you once did not know and had irrational answers to explain them become everyday common knowledge. Some of these doubts had been explained by religion. Or had they? Could it be that religion is only another way of naming ignorance? Humans in some parts of the world, long long ago used to believe that lighting flashed whenever Thor threw his hammer, and thunder crashed as his hammer tumbled against the clouds. That was the religious explanation. We now know that thunder is caused by the rapid expansion and contraction of the air that surrounds  a bolt of lightning.  This causes the air around the bolt to become very hot.  It occurs in less than a fraction of a second.  But, air cannot stay extremely heated for too long.  The heat is lost quickly through the air, causing  waves of compressed air that make the sound of what we know as thunder.  That is the scientific explanation in a nutshell. So, what we once took for granted as dogma, through the increase of scientific awareness has become common knowledge…Goodbye Thor. The more you learn the less you have need of fallacious explanations for natural events that happen around you.

As you cannot learn for me and I cannot learn for you, we have to do this on our own. And we each have a different speed for learning and coming to conclusions based on the newfound information. Of course we can share knowledge in form of books, magazines, videos, oral presentations or what not, but in the end learning from them is an individual process. We also have the chains of irrational restraints shoved upon us by religion. The eagerness with which we break them depends entirely on each person. Sad to say I took a very long time to come to this point and have seen youngsters arrive at the same point at an early age.

And, speaking of youngsters…

When is the proper time to talk to kids about agnosticism and atheism? When should we talk to our kids about our lack of belief in a deity? I for one have not been direct on the mater with my kids and have preferred to let them learn through example and not by direct counsel. I do not go to or take them to any church. They here me talk about religion and how I don’t believe in it. Surely they have heard me say I don’t think the existence of God is probable. I just have not asked them about what they think.  Maybe I am just chicken.

Should agnostics/atheists be proactive proselytizers? I think not. At least not in the sense of going door to door and asking  “Have you heard the good news?”  Many of you have heard this before and  been unfortunate enough to open the door and suffer to get rid of these people. However, I do believe that we should not be silent. We can no longer feel intimidated by a majority of religious people. It could be that their majority is not that big. The problem is that we are not as outspoken and others like us do not know that it is ok to be a non-believer. So we should express our opinions, insist on respect for our right to not believe in any deity and show others who have fears and doubts about coming out that there are many others just like them.

See you next time.

 

Posted in Atheism, Coffee, The Conscious Disbeliever

More on Hello World!

My Father died…For a while I feel very much like being on my own. Residency has come, now for a very lengthy year in General Surgery (not much to my liking, but alas, a prerequisite for Neurosurgery). In hindsight one year does not seem much, and at last I am starting my neurosurgical training. Have been waiting for this most of my life. Work, study and more work; time goes by. Pediatric Neurosurgery…fun to work with the kids…but it also brings into view many situations that make me think. I can’t believe that an all knowing, all caring and loving God could wish this type of things to happen to one of his/hers/its creatures. It does not seem fair.

 Are not two sparrows sold for next to nothing? Yet not a single sparrow falls to the ground without your Fathers consent (Matthew 10:29) and a bit down the line You are worth more than an entire flock of sparrows (Matthew 10:31).

Well I guess the kids here don’t seem worth much to God. Hey! Looks like kids everywhere are not worth much:

He knows everything on land and in the sea. Not a leaf falls without His knowledge (Qur’an 6:59).

Must be around 5 by now, although looking back I have no idea why i remained so low on the spectrum. My residency comes to an end, at last I am officially a Neurosurgeon. The buck stops here…you are on your own now baby! Well looks like a fine time to take another leap…I get married – quite an auspicious day. My daughter is born! A happy day indeed! Are you an agnostic? a friend asks. The question hits me deep inside. I knew the meaning of the word, but had never stopped to ponder how much it could refer to my own person. I am an AGNOSTIC, there is a word for people like me. Next step…come clean or better said come out. I talk to my wife about my thoughts and beliefs. Whats more, on an official application, when the section on religion comes up I check the “no religion” box…guess that makes it official…I have now publicly become part of Irreligion. Well they did not have an Agnostic check box, but it is close enough. My son is born! Another extremely happy day in my life. Hawkins, Dawkins and Hitchens…what can I say? I have the need to read the Bible again. And I do it. But not wanting to get too lost in translation, I purchase the Tanakh (Tanach) Jewish Bible (1917 Jewish Publication Society Translation). You all know where that is leading to. Penn Jillette sums it up very well: … if you read the Bible or the Koran or the Torah cover-to-cover I believe you will emerge from that as an atheist. I am now passing the  number 6 milestone, becoming a de facto atheist. Well why stop at that,  having come to the point where one cannot know for certain if a deity exists and the the existence of such a deity is highly improbable and living my life accordingly it puts me at about a 6.9. Probably the closest my amygdala will allow me to get to 7. Or maybe, just maybe my frontal lobes don’t allow me to take a jump of faith. Yes you read correctly… a jump of faith. In Dawkins’ spectrum number 7 is a Strong Atheist. “I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung “knows” there is one”. Sounds a lot like faith to me. So as to not bore you with more rambling about how I got to this present state, let me say this: I cannot prove or disprove the existence of God or any deity, but the likelihood of one existing is very slim.Close to zero actually. If in fact one exists, then this deity is incompetent, vile and has absolutely no interest in our goings and comings. So, why should I or anybody care about such deity. The Atheist Bus slogan puts it into perspective:

“There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life” http://flic.kr/p/5RctYg

Thank you for reading this far. See you next time.

Posted in Atheism, Coffee, The Conscious Disbeliever

Hello world!

Hello, this is the first post of many I hope.

As my profile states; I am a family man, a gamer, a neurosurgeon and a “Born Again 6.9 Atheist”. Or you could use the word Agnostic, maybe it is just a mater of semantics. I am also a Coffee Aficionado.

The 6.9 comes from Richard Dawkins Spectrum of theistic probability ( Dawkins, Richard (2006). The God Delusion. Bantam Books. pp. 50. ISBN 0-618-68000-4.)

I started life as everybody; an atheist. No child is born with a fixed set of values. We have our parents and family thrust upon us their own set of values; be they moral, political o religious. From an early age we here of God (Allah, Jesus o whatever deity is popular in your area) and depending on your parents religion, even before we can understand words…religion is imposed on us (circumcision, baptism or what not). Such was my case. I was baptized in the Catholic church as would be expected of me and continued the path, including a stint at being an alter boy. Catechism and Sunday Mass were part of the routine up to about the age of 13 probably. After that I did not have a very good attendance to those activities either. I had read the Bible from cover to cover a couple of times around the time I stopped going to church, maybe not analyzing consciously but surely in my subconscius something was going on; the wheels had started turning. Questions came up time and time again. The God in my Bible was first a jealous, vengeful and spiteful one and then all lovey-dovey, with a world of contradiction. Maybe he was schizophrenic, of the paranoid variety.

All this time I was moving away from my preordained faith, I was becoming a non-practising Catholic or maybe, just maybe by then a 3.5; could have been labeled as an agnostic with a touch of theism, but on the right track 😉 . As time went by I started to regard religion as something man-made, with all the flaws that comes with its maker.

Don’t think that all this stems from a bad life, on the contrary I think that all in all (with the normal ups and downs) my life has been very good. All this comes as a personal process of learning.

Going back to the religion thing. I have come to believe that religion is a very bad thing and the cause of many evils. As Blaise Pascal once said “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction”.

But I am wandering, back to our journey. By now I am not going to church anymore and have a sincere aversion to religion. At the same time I retain a great respect for other peoples beliefs; not so much a respect for what they believe in, but respect for their right to believe in whatever they want to.

Life in a small town, with not much to do, but lots of time to read.

Accompanying my uncle (the doctor) on rounds, surgery and as an occasional ad hoc coroners assistant; getting my first taste of life and death. Waiting to fulfill my childhood dream of going to medical school and becoming a doctor.

Medical School! Oh happy days! Reading ( a lot!), getting to know many new friends, some of them lifelong. Parties, drinking…the usual.

Internship…your on your own now buddy…well almost.