Archive for the ‘ Politics ’ Category

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

The never ending discussion on the compatibility between science and religion asks if they can get along and coexist. The argument, no matter how it is stated, comes down to this: Science has facts, religion has faith. As long as religion has faith it will remain incompatible with both science and reality. Believers might argue that their faith is compatible with science yet they will not allow for someone else’s faith being compatible with their own. When believers can’t even get their ‘faith’ coherent but decide to disagree with the best method we have of knowing the world around us then it is completely incompatible with science.

A religion that is not incompatible with science would be one that requires no faith. Would that be a religion?

Can’t we all just get along?

NO, we can’t as long as you are unwilling to be a full participant in reality.

Before anyone thinks I’m calling all believers stupid, just stop. This is a reaction to the discussion of compatibility and not simply your particular point of view. That said, if you want to feel offended, that is your prerogative, just don’t expect an apology.



Internet Safety For Students, Everyone, And You Too


Internet safety alert….. yes, it’s for you stupid

Originally posted on Not about everything:

Sharing this, because it seems an interesting lesson.

I am teaching E-safety to my pupils at the moment and wanted to try a little experiment. Please share this photo and see how far it gets, I want to show my students how easily photos etc can go viral, even when you may not want them to. Share it and see how far it goes!


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Ηθική στην πολιτική

Yeah, I know… looks like Greek to me too. Wanna know what is totally freaking me out about this? I can read more than 50% of it… I tried and got the gist of the post before translating it…. how effing awesome is that? It’s been a very long time since I learned to read Greek…. I’m am impressed with myself today.

I was half way through that first paragraph when some part of my brain grabbed my left hand and slapped me in the forehead and then asked me “what are you doing?”

I’m reading this post I told myself.

But it’s in Greek I retorted.

Wait… what?

The human brain is a never ending series of wonders…..

The Review? Something New For A Change…

I asked a simple question of my readers. The response was about what I had thought it would be.

Can someone please show me a case in the last few months of child sexual abuse / assault that does not involve a priest, pastor, or some religion related individual?

When I tried to get some actual numbers myself I found some interesting statistics.

Information on Catholic sex abuse cases is about what you think it would be but with some surprise conclusions if you’ll allow some lateral thinking.

  • Apparently the Catholic clergy are not the only religious organization to fail to stop sex abuse by their employees
  • Catholicism does not decrease the incidence of sex abuse among its adherents
  • There are a lot of theories as to why sex abuse is so high among the Catholic clergy
  • The Catholic church has hidden sex abuse cases all over the planet

For a bit of information about other clerical sex abuse I found a couple of other seemingly reasonable sources:

Here is a list of resources to study on if you want to know more about sex abuse by clergy where there are varying reports and statistics, some stating that as much as 20% of clergy are violating ethical bounds regarding sexually oriented conduct.

This page at starts with this summary

The Prevalence of Clergy Sexual Misconduct with Adults: A Research Study
Executive Summary

Diana R. Garland*

This research study involved two companion projects: (1) a national random survey to determine the prevalence of clergy sexual misconduct (CSM) with adults; and (2) a qualitative study of three groups of women and men: (a) those who self-identified as survivors who had been the objects of CSM, (b) family or friends of survivors, and (c) offenders who had themselves committed CSM. The goal of both projects was to define the scope and nature of CSM, so that effective prevention strategies can be proposed for the protection of religious leaders and congregants.

General Statistics of the Research:

  • national, random survey conducted in 2008 with 3,559 respondents
  • phone interviews with 46 persons who had experienced clergy sexual misconduct as adults, representing 17 different Christian and Jewish religious affiliations
  • phone interviews with 15 persons who were second-hand victims of CSM (husbands, friends and other church staff members); and with 21 experts (non-offending religious leaders, researchers, and professionals who provide care for survivors and offenders)

The Prevalence of CSM

We used the 2008 General Social Survey (GSS) to estimate the prevalence of clergy sexual misconduct. This is an in-person survey of a nationally representative sample of noninstitutionalized English- or Spanish-speaking adults, conducted by National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. The 2008 survey included 3559 respondents. Although the GSS is an in-person interview, the questions we developed specifically for this project were self-administered, making it easier for respondents to report potentially painful or embarrassing experiences.

Clergy sexual misconduct was defined in this study as:

Minister, priests, rabbis, or other clergypersons or religious leaders who make sexual advances or propositions to persons in the congregations they serve who are not their spouses or significant others.

Of those surveyed:

  • More than 3% of women who had attended a congregation in the past month reported that they had been the object of CSM at some time in their adult lives;
  • 92% of these sexual advances had been made in secret, not in open dating relationships; and
  • 67% of the offenders were married to someone else at the time of the advance.
  • In the average American congregation of 400 persons, with women representing, on average, 60% of the congregation, there are, on average of 7 women who have experienced clergy sexual misconduct.
  • Of the entire sample, 8% report having known about CSM occurring in a congregation they have attended. Therefore, in the average American congregation of 400 congregants, there are, on average, 32 persons who have experienced CSM in their community of faith.

Of course, CSM does not occur evenly across congregations, but these statistics demonstrate the widespread nature of CSM and refutes the commonly held belief that it is a case of a few charismatic and powerful leaders preying on vulnerable followers. In the nonrandom qualitative study that occurred concurrently with the survey, survivors hailed from 17 different Christian and Jewish affiliations: Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Seventh Day Adventist, Disciples of Christ, Latter Day Saints, Apostolic, Calvary Chapel, Christian Science, Church of Christ, Episcopal, Friends (Quaker), Mennonite, Evangelical, Nondenominational (Christian), and Reform Judaism.

There is a few things that I can conclude on a personal basis from this short bit of armchair research

  • Religious clergy are NOT an unquestionably good source of morality, no matter what they say in public
  • Religion does not make you a good person
  • Religion does not police its own ranks in any appreciable way
  • Religious groups are not protected from normal human desires in any way, their gods and prayers do not seem to protect them at all, not even from themselves.
  • Religions, for all their teaching, cannot make people moral, not even for the time they are in supposed holy buildings
  • Religious faith, despite all its claims, does not show any appreciable value. Those who claim to be most pious are not even highly likely to be free of the failures of even the most immoral among our species, never mind guaranteed to be free of them.

It is reasonable to then conclude that advice from the clergy has no more or less weight than advice from a good friend or trusted counsellor. This fact/idea, in and of itself, removes any value that the clergy and religion might pretend to have for society. Worse yet, the pretence that the clergy are honorable and trustworthy makes them a danger to society. We cannot be certain which of the clergy would abuse our children and friends so it is clearly wise to approach all clergy with the same trepidation that we approach all strangers.

If you are female and wander through life wondering what man will next sexually assault you, don’t forget to include the clergy. If you are worried about stranger danger for your children, don’t leave them alone at church. The clergy are no more trustworthy than any other human being on the face of the planet. Given the ration of clergy to other humans, they are statistically less trustworthy on a random sampling of both.

Think about it: 10% of the clergy you know are highly likely to be sexual predators…. so you know 5 clerics? Do you really think that half a person is valid? No, it’s probably certain that at least one of them should not be trusted with your children, wife, husband, son etc. I say that not because these people are incapable of defending themselves but because they have been trained since birth to ‘trust’ the clergy to tell them what is right and wrong. Clearly not all of the clergy anywhere in the world are capable of doing that in an objectively morally good way.

Something New For A Change… A Challenge

Can someone please show me a case in the last few months of child sexual abuse / assault that does not involve a priest, pastor, or some religion related individual?

2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 13,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

I also have over 400 followers…

Just four generations ago, being heard around the world would be unthinkable. Today my words are read around the globe, not figuratively, but literally. I and you, are part of history. Be proud of that.

I don’t think the rest is necessary for this. I had never imagined that there would be that many people interested in what I have to say about the world. Truly, I would not. Roughly an average of 35 views per day. That’s much more than I hoped for. I’m very happy about this.. and surprised.

I want to thank everyone that enjoys my writings and stops by now and then to read or comment or both. It’s been a fun year and I hope 2014 is a bunch more of the same. I’m going to try to focus a bit more on theory of mind and AI this year. My interest in these are peaking lately. I hope that you’ll enjoy what I come up with.

Last, but not least, I hope that all of you have a good year. Not because I think that is some special thing, but because I truly would like if we could all have a good life…

Let’s find out how this turns out… 3… 2… 1…

Good And Evil In The Crib

I have to tell you that I like the cliche headline grabbing way this title hangs on the top there ;)

It’s not about evil babies no matter how much I would like to write that article. I just read a post at  dealing with the innateness of morality in babies. Yes, human babies. The cute helpless mini-alien looking things that people get at hospitals.

Hurt mommy and I'll kill you!

Hurt mommy and I’ll kill you!

I know that everyone has the cutest and smartest baby in the(ir) world. I’m not here to argue that. The post in question discusses whether morality is innate in humans and provides some good references to follow. I’m not going to critique the post but I wanted to mention it because it is the inspiration for this one.

One of the things that I believe people forget or overlook when discussing a topic like this is the mechanisms on which morality functions. I don’t mean philosophical things, rather I mean the neurons and brains and stuff in our heads where all the decisions on a moral scale are made. I think that our brains have a lot to do with morality as we perceive it.

Morality In Mammals

We can spend a few minutes on the Internet and find examples of many mammals showing moral actions, actions of empathy, and generally displaying what were previously thought to be human only actions. All you have to do for this is search for ‘animal saves’ and you’ll get plenty to look at. Clearly they are not limited to humans so it is fair to conclude that what makes us moral beings is probably more to do with our ancestors than some built-in moral mechanism or programming. Not one religion that I’m aware of teaches that animals are moral beings capable of moral action. PETA is not a religion despite what you might think.

Logically we should look at what humans and other mammals have in common. An ancestor! Genetic commonalities. Wait for it …. a brain.

Why would having a brain make you a moral species or a species that is wont to be moral? Another clue is that we find many of the animal stories mentioned above are about social animals or animals that generally are not loners. Ah, so a clue is that social mammals seem to generally exhibit moralistic behavior. Only one species reads holy texts or even seems to give a damn about morality, humans. We can rule out reading and holy texts and even discussing the idea of morality as being the cause.

Coming full circle, that would mean that we should be able to eliminate adulthood in humans as a requirement for moral thinking and action. It appears that all social mammals seem to have the ability for moral action and that includes humans. Nurture is out, so it must be that human babies have the ability for moral action as well whether they can demonstrate it or not. Hopefully this establishes a firm reason for thinking that humans are born with the ability to act in morally good ways.  I don’t want to include the entire argument so for the sakes of this discussion let’s take as granted that morality is based on the law of reciprocity… the golden rule in its many forms. In adults this can be easily argued as a survival strategy and it even supports social group survival strategies. We can see this in other mammal species as well. Why would the law of reciprocity seem to be prevalent across the mammalian species?

Balance Is Survival

In a general sense, the survival point on a scale between harm and no-harm is in the balance point. There will be times of giving and receiving harm and no-harm, but survival goes to those that maintain the balance more often. This can be reduced to a calculation, the kind you find on actuary tables. It’s not a heart warming calculation and it involves leaving the dead and wounded behind as often as not. In this grotesque calculation of survival we can see that over time, any no-harm that you can achieve will help in the fight against harm in order to maintain balance. It’s a calculation that your brain can do.

Social animals protect their in-group and self. This is demonstrably true. Evolution made sure of this because those that did not simply didn’t survive at a rate high enough for us to count them today.

In our complicated world of hairless apes, our brains have far more information than what will kill you and what is good to eat. The balance between harm and no-harm is far more complex now. We have to think and consider what is harm to self and harm to in-group and what is not. Morality is born of this equation for it is only the most complex set of equations to find balance, to find survival. Morality is innate _because_ we are social animals and it serves as a basis for survival for pre-modern humans, modern humans, and in fact all social mammals.

I don’t think that you’ll be able to find a moral act by either humans or any social mammal that can not be understood in this way.

Survival is innate. Morality is a survival strategy in its most basic expression.

When surviving becomes more complex, the expression of that survival strategy becomes more complex and can even be stretched to the point of ludicrous tensions.

Is it okay to murder Hitler?

Watch a child, I bet they would if they could.

Hurt mommy and I’ll kill you!

That is morality in it’s most raw form.


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