Anthropocene Apocalypse – The gorilla.

myatheistlife:

Humans, try your empathy on this….

Originally posted on Opher's World:

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Gorilla 1

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These are gorillas. They come from the same place as us – Africa. They are primates who share 98.4% of their genes with us. After the chimpanzee they are our closest relatives. We shared a common ancestor as little as seven million years ago. That’s recent by evolutionary standards

Take a good look because it is probably, outside a zoo, the only chance you’ll get to see one. They are being decimated by ebola, their habitat is being destroyed and they are butchered by humans for meat. That is pretty close to cannibalism.

There are only 880 mountain gorillas left. That does not seem a large number compared to 8 Billion humans. Surely we can leave a little room for the rest of wild-life? Do we really need to take it all?

We need to restrict ourselves to 50% of the available space and limit our numbers. If we do…

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Empathy Is For Monkeys, And Rats, And Babies

Yes, it’s a video. Are you excited? Really? Yes, you’re going to have to watch the video to keep up with this post so go on, read it. I’ll wait….

No doubt, Jeremy Rifkin is a smart individual, however, that does not make him eternally correct. Yes, I’m about to say that I think he’s got a couple of things wrong. Observation is a really big part of science but the conclusions we draw from them are not always right.

Before we get into it I’ll set out the two presuppositions I’m relying on here. I’m not going to try to explain them in a short post so forgive me this shortcoming for the purposes of this post.

  1. In our heads is a simulation of the world around us. We live in that simulation, not the real world, and remain always isolated from the real world by sensory systems and motor systems.
  2. There is no one watching the simulation. That simulation is what we refer to as our consciousness. It runs 24/7/365 except when we are unconscious and even then, some parts of it are still running. Anaesthesia works by stopping the simulation. Without it we feel no pain, acquire no new memories or experiences etc.

I welcome comments on these presuppositions but cannot explain them at length in this post. On to the video.

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At about the 1:50 mark he says two things that drive me ‘nuts':

  • Mammalian brains are soft wired to do things
  • He uses the term ‘mirror neurons’

Specifically he says: ‘We are soft wired to experience another’s plight as if we are experiencing it ourselves

This implies that it is mechanically oriented in some way that our brain does something when we observe it happening to others. I believe this is a naive understanding of the neuronal network in our brains and that it is a simplistic look at what neurons do.

Think for a moment about the knowledge that you need to understand what a human is doing when they try to open a nut. What skills must you understand? What knowledge must you possess to determine even what the human is doing before figuring out why or to what purpose. These things are things which we all take for granted. We learn a lot of them as children: how to move our limbs, what food looks like, the position of our fingers as they move to action and how to predict the forces being exerted when fingers move a certain way. What it looks like when a primate is ingesting food. What the body language of a primate is when being studious, eating, masticating and so on. We humans learn this before the age of 5.

All of these things are stored in our brains like rules. The rules of physics, rules governing ‘normal’ behaviors, rules governing recognizable objects or objects of familiar shapes. You can look at 1437 different mugs, cups, and glasses and in probably all cases determine what the object is probably for without any help. This is because of the rules you have stored up over time in your brain. With each of these stored patterns are also patterns of muscle movement. The way that the simulation in your head works is that you model things. If I ask you how to open a jar of peanut butter, in your mind you can see yourself (hands) going through the motions of opening the jar. As you do so, all those ‘mirror neurons’ are firing up exactly as if you are opening a jar of peanut butter. Whether you imagine it or actually do it, your brain does the same things because you LIVE in that simulation. The difference between imagining it and doing it is whether you actually orient your body toward a physical object and engage physical sensory systems and physical motor systems. Either way you are modelling the action in your head applying all the stored up rules and pattern recognition. This gives you reasonable expectation of what should happen as you open the jar. If the lid does not come loose in the expected manner you don’t stand there waiting for things to change, your brain engages new patterns and rules in order to effect the actions that you expected.

What the monkey was doing was learning patterns and rules storing them as he watched the human open the nut. Those patterns can then be used later by the monkey to acquire a tasty morsel. The monkey used observation to effect a model of how to open that kind of nut. As the monkey built the rules and patterns it looks exactly as it does as the monkey is trying to figure it out on his own. Try to observe this in your own brain as you have someone teach you some trick that you have not yet learned: a card trick, how to yo-yo, how to balance a pencil on your nose … anything.

That is not soft wiring. This is the function of our brains. This is it’s purpose: to simulate the world around us, being informed by our senses as to the rules and patterns we can use for the simulations we do. Soft wiring implies there is something else going on. No, this is the whole thing.

He goes on to state that our brains are soft wired for empathy. Bad mistake. Humans with no empathy will show the same results in the MRI, just like the monkey and the nut story. From there he goes on to say stuff that should make a use car salesman blush. The premise that we are wired for empathy is false. When our brains simulate the experience of others in order to build patterns and rules it triggers the calculations as though we experienced it. Remember we live in that simulation and modelling the experience of another in the simulation is the same thing as experiencing that simulation model personally. This isn’t ‘empathy’ as it is classically defined, it is simply how the simulator in your head works. Nature is frugal. Why have multiple simulators when a single simulator can be reused for many applications.

Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

When people say they got lost in the movie they were watching it is exactly because the simulator was busy simulating the world presented to them on the screen and was too busy to keep running a simulation of the physical world directly around them. When we empathize it’s because we understand the feelings of another and we understand those feelings because we modelled them in our simulation and ACTUALLY DID FEEL the same things, or what we imagine them to have been. We can never know exactly how something felt to another person except in vague generalities. Empathy is not something we are ‘soft wired’ for – it is a side effect of our consciousness, the simulator in our heads.

To conclude: There are NO mirror neurons and empathy is proof that we live in the simulation running in our heads, not  some wiring mistake.

Reasonable-ism?

myatheistlife:

This is so very much like thoughts that I have from time to time. I recently related the story of Lot and was told that I used the word shit 15 times.

Originally posted on The Unassuming Atheist:

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Violence and Religion

Let me start this by quoting The Unassuming Atheist (emphasis added by me)

Were the Fort Hood and Charlie Hebdo murder sprees or Boko Haram massacres caused by Islam? Are the Central African murder sprees caused by Christianity? A yes answer is far too simple. But violence, tribalism, and mutually exclusive truth claims are built into in our sacred texts and traditions. As a consequence, religion around the world continues to disinhibit lethal violence at a horrendous rate. For us to vilify Muslims or Christians or any group of believers collectively is to engage in the familiar act of cowardice we call scapegoating. It means, ever and always, that we end up sacrificing innocents to appease our own fear, anger and thirst for vengeance. But for us to ignore the complicated role of religion in violence is a different kind of cowardice, one that has been indulged by peace-lovers among the faithful for far too long.

It doesn’t really matter how you slice it, to be fair it is necessary to state things in the manner above. Religion doesn’t cause violence but it damn sure disinhibits it. Wait, let’s rethink that. Religions and their holy texts actually call for violence and war. That religion and violence are connected so tightly is no accident. What the Unassuming Atheist is trying to say is that only batshit crazy people actually go through with the violence. All the sane religiously deluded people are too chicken shit to do what their holy books tell them to do. Wait, maybe they’re not True Christians or True Muslims or True Jews… who knew?

 

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For a group of people to tell me that they follow a book full of bat shit crazy violence and marching orders to kill those who do not believe but that their religion is not a religion of violence, that true-believers do not adhere to such things and that violent believers are just nut-jobs that have nothing to do with them is to piss down my back and try to tell me it’s raining.

Yeah, and the neo Nazi party is not anything to do with the original Nazi party, am I right? No, they have nothing in common. The Neo Nazis are peace loving political movement, not a violent genocidal group of whackjobs. You believe me when I say that, right?

Okay, so if you tell me your religion is the religion of peace and I can go to Google and find 100s of thousands of pictures of religious violence, violence created by believers, and violence created in the name of the deity I’m going to spit in your face. Yes, that’s offensive but it is also a proper response to telling me that monotheism is peaceful.

The Unassuming Atheist wants us to believe that religion simply does not inhibit violence. To a degree I’d be willing to agree with that. Humanity is a violent species but we did get it honestly. There was a large part of human history where live and let live was okay. There was enough land to keep us separate. The world is a much smaller place now. This is no longer possible and religious violence is no longer tolerable. Religion is no longer tolerable. Yes, it’s okay to say that. If religion was out busy trying to jail and punish the violent nut-jobs that are following their holy texts we might be able to forgive moderate believers. That is not what is happening and I can’t forgive them. Oh, sure, many of them have no clue what to do.

Well, here are a couple of clues:

  • Leave your violent religion behind. Just get out.
  • Condemn the violence with the strongest possible measures. Turn vigilante.
  • Start telling the public sphere who is right and who is wrong where violence is concerned. Be vocal. Make sure the world knows where you stand.
  • Then put your money where your mouth is – support those that hunt the violent ones down and kill them. Start spending your money on feeding the hungry, clothing the poor and so on.

When the pious can do this the world will gain. Humanity will gain.

Renounce the violence by punishing the violent people who claim your religion. Stand up, deliver, speak out. The longer that moderates remain quiet the more tyrannical the violent ones become. Weed your own gardens believers. Then, just maybe, we can believe that your religion is one of peace.

#FuckThePope – Fight Fire With Fire

I am sincerely offended by the tyranny of theistic belief. Theists can only go so far before they should expect a response.

 

 

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Pot, meet kettle.
Fight fire with fire, get the marshmallows out, let’s watch the world burn, Pornography for pyromaniacs of thought.

 

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They burn all that encroaches on their monolith, striking jawbone with stone axe to resolve the merest insult.

Apes using fire and brimstone to create a heaven on Earth in the belief that forging fires make steel, not realizing that wild fires of unconscionable belief simply raze the forests of reasonable existence. They are certain of their belief and profoundly unaware of their unthinking push to have us again living in trees.

 

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Stupid is as stupid does. Education is the answer until you have to implement it at the end of a gun. Just pull the trigger and let the world burn!

 

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The question then, is how do you teach a bigot to love? Especially when he is the representative of god on Earth?

 

#Fuck The Pope

#Fuck The Pope is what Mr Deity has to say, and I agree with him.

There is one thing that Mr Deity forgot. ‘The Pope’ at various and numerous times in history has been one of the most vile creatures to walk this Earth. To even speak as though his religion is a moral podium is to mock everyone of no faith and everyone who has died at the hands of religion.

#Fuck The Pope

Refuting the Atheist-Hitler Myth

myatheistlife:

“…right down to his brutal slaughtering of the “Christ-killing” Jews.”

I think that sums this up pretty well but there is a lot of detail in there. Something to think about while the world is ablaze with thoughts of how violent Islam is.

Let’s be clear, monotheism is violent … period. Let’s not focus only on the violence of fundamentalist Muslims because all the holy books of monotheism advocate violence, bigotry, hatred, genocidal thinking and numerous other kinds of morally reprehensible behaviors.

For any moderate readers all I have to say is that unless and until you begin condemning the words of your own holy book this problem will never go away. It may take a hiatus now and then but it will always come back because it’s right there in the book.

So, the moderate believer challenge: tell us all the bad parts of your holy book, the parts that you disagree with, the parts that you think should not be there.

Originally posted on Michael Sherlock Author:

I am very tired of theists attempting to poison the well of atheism by erroneously asserting that Hitler was an atheist.  Even if he was an atheist, such a fallacious claim would fail to demonstrate that atheism (a lack of belief in gods) was responsible for any of the atrocities committed by Hitler.  Yet, as will be clearly and unequivocally established, Christianity played a pivotal part in the heinous atrocities committed against the Jewish people in World War II.

Hitler was a Christian.  This undeniable fact couldn’t be made any clearer than by his own confessions.  Yet, I will not merely present you with these testimonies, as damning as they happen to be on their own, but I also intend on furnishing you with a brief history of the inherent anti-Semitism of the Christian religion.  I will do so to demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that Hitler and his Christian…

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