Struggling with Meaninglessness

searching meaning in meaninglessness

Archive for September 2008

Ambiguousness

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Few months ago, I came across an article from a random blog – “Are boys smarter than girls in maths?”  Reading from the title alone, I immediately knew that the answer will be a big NO and the author will go on to emphasize equality in both genders. That’s because I know the blog’s author is a very careful person and tend to be politically-correct when it comes to his writing.

After skimming through the essay, his conclusion was indeed a no.

In my opinion, any safe, non-controversial, political correct writings which tend to seek reader’s nod in acceptance are maybe good for conveying knowledge and information, but it will not necessary help people to think critically. Sure, everyone will be happy when you tell them that genders are equal. But again, does appealing to sense of comfort equates to truth?

Now, back to the topic – Are boys really smarter than girls in maths? Below is one of the author’s reference to his essay:

In a new study published recently in Science, Professor Janet Hyde and colleagues may have spotted the first signs of change. They used data from around 7 million US children in 10 US states from grade 2 through to grade 11, routinely gathered as part of a national assessment exercise. They wanted to find out if boys are still performing better than girls at maths.
What they found was that in marked contrast to earlier research, there was little or no difference in maths performance between girls and boys in all of the 10 states. In some states girls performed fractionally better, on average, than boys, and in other states this trend was reversed

Before my refutation, I will first give an analogy. In a 100 meters sprint race, I would dare to say that 50% of the young people in this world could easily finish the race within 30 seconds. But on the other hand, how many people in the world could actually run as fast as Usain Bolt, who just set a world record at 9.69 seconds?

I say, not many.

Same goes for ability in maths. The research is done with grade 2 to grade 11 kids, which in other words, the level of maths is somewhat between basic to intermediate level of maths. Is this level of maths so difficult where boys and girls will show disparity in abilities? We need to know that when it comes to something that involves learning curves, there’s always the diminishing factor – which means a subject gets harder and harder to learn as you go to a higher level.

For example, it is not difficult to improve your running time from 30 seconds to 20 seconds in 100m sprint but to improve the timing from 10 seconds to 9.7 seconds, it is not something everyone can do. And this is what the diminishing factor is all about.

By ignoring the advanced or higher level of maths (in university and scientific world level), this research only gave Prof. Janet Hyde the answer that she wanted – that boys and girls are equal in maths. Or perhaps, she intended to give an ambiguous answer to gender equality by only highlighting “boys and girls” but ignoring “men and women”. Whatever it is, this does not give a complete answer anything pertaining to reality.

And I’m extremely aware that there are many of these half-hearted (or half-minded) experiments around which just give the answer the researches seek rather than finding the truth.

Another instance – the correlation between red wine and the heart. Basically, one research concluded that people who have the habit of drinking red wine tend to have lesser heart problems. So, yes, people who drink red wine do have better heart, but does correlation imply causation? Is red wine indeed a magical potion for your heart?

Or perhaps, people who could afford buying red wine tend to be better off who could also afford proper health care and diet, hence better heart? If so, red wine would just be a symbol of wealth or capability and not a causation.

Any research method which are technically over-simplistic will bound to have flaws or incompleteness. Considering these are funded researches, I’m surprised the research method is not thoroughly investigated and thought out properly. It goes no where when the researcher interpret the result based on his/her own subjective bias rather than judging objectively.

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Written by elan85

September 26, 2008 at 4:03 am

The Evolution of Religion

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The Ethiops say that their gods are flat-nosed and black, while the Thracians say that theirs have blue eyes and red hair.

Yet, if cattle or horses or lions had hands and could draw, and could sculpture like men, then the horses would draw their gods like horses, and cattle like cattle; and each they would shape bodies of gods in the likeness, each kind, of their own. – Xenophanes, ancient Greek philosopher.

I won’t dare to claim that I’m an expert in the field of religion. But I would just like to summarize what I have generally learnt throughout the past 4 years of the history of religion.

The most early form of religion is Animism, where the ancient people believed that everything in the world, from water to fire, tree, animals, grass, and fruits contain souls and spirits.  It is no surprise why the primitive people were so superstitious during those days. They probably just attained the ability of higher intelligence and everything around them must have looked to be super-mysterious and strange.

Why does it hurt to touch the fire? Why do I need to drink water? How does the tree grow taller and taller by itself? Why do we look so different compared to other animals? Why do fruits turn brown several days after being plucked from the tree? It is very important to understand that the root of religion’s existence is due to human’s inherent thoughts of seeking Cause and Effect. They were seeing the Effects clearly with their eyes but the origin of Causes bewildered them badly. They basically do not have any answers to mysteries.

Not knowing the answers, they concluded that if the nature is so mysterious and they do not know any answer to it, then it must be a deep mystery. There must be something controlling the nature. There must be some little souls in the fruits and trees, animals… and lightning…. and the sun and moon. Everything. Hence, ancient people worship anything which they came across to ‘appease’ these mysterious objects.

Few thousand years later, human being began the art of mastery and started to manipulate the nature to our own benefits. We learned how to light up fire to provide heat. We learned how to do farming (agricultural) and channel water to the farm. Human chopped down trees to build homes. Human starting to have grasp of the nature and utilizing it to our own benefits.

Inevitably, human doubted and questioned Animism and gradually it slowly faded away because it no longer bears any fundamental mysteries. But there were still many mysteries which were unsolved especially things on the sky such as sun, lightning, rain, wind and etc. Those people hypothesizes that Animism couldn’t be right. There must be a higher level of Gods and Deities to complement the higher level of complexities.

Hence, the rise of Polytheism took place in places like Egypt, India, Greece, Rome (Italy), Scandinavia and China. They are all identical – all these countries have became a civilized nations and they started to believed in pagan Gods. Plus, all these Polytheism religions contained stories and tales conveying the role of all the Gods and Goddess. And it is also not short of ‘Politics’ where often you will come across stories of the Good triumph over Evil, The God slaying the Devil which tried to harm humanity and a complex family tree linking all the relationship between Gods and Goddess.

(African and Mesoamerican people on the other hand, who were largely tribal, practiced shamanism which involved rituals and sacrificial).

If you notice these pagan Gods, you will realize all these Gods often represent the nature and also human emotions. Zeus, God of Lightning. Poseidon, God of Sea. Ra, God of Sun. Amun, God of Creation. Pluto, God of Death. Saturn, God of Time. Brahma, God of Creator. Krishna, God of Love. Etc.

As time goes by, scientific advancement in areas like astronomy, mathematics, physics, and philosophy especially by the Greeks shed some doubts on the concept of pagan Gods. Ancient philosophers and scientists believed that the reality ‘makes more sense’ if there’s a coherency in nature instead of looking at them separately. For instance, rain could not happen without water and heat. And without water, flowers and trees will not grow. And if flower and trees do not grow, animals will not have any food to eat. Hence, there must be a form of coherency.

This lead to the idea that, instead of multiple pagan Gods in the sky governing Earth, perhaps there’s only one God who orchestrate the design of the nature? With this, the age of monotheism gave birth to Abrahamic religions which focuses in answering the ultimate mystery that nobody could dissect until 1,800 years later, and also giving a massive improvisation to Polytheism’s version – Where do life and human being came from? 

And so, until today, we are still living in the age of monotheism. Just like polytheism, monotheism religion also tell fables. Isn’t it hypocritical to claim that the Zeus summoning lightning is a myth but the story of Noah’s Ark is the truth when both fable have the same degree of irrationality?

I live in Southeast Asia and I find it quite an amazement to see three neighboring countries – Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines have different official religions. (Malaysia – Islam, Thailand – Buddhism, Philippines – Christianity). Why such situation exist when these three neighboring countries are just few thousand kilometers away from each other? Because historically, Malaysia was once a busy trading port frequently visited by Persian and Turkish traders, while Thailand is the only country in Southeast-Asia which was never occupied by colonial rule, hence repelling the European’s cultural influence and Philippines was occupied by the Spanish.

This actually highlights several important points:

  • The belief of religion was purely spread and packed with human’s influence.
  • As Xenophanes mentioned, human being created God based on our own image. So, we need to know that every religion was raised based on specific cultural influence.
  • For instance, look at the names in the holy books/scriptures. Bible is consist purely of European names, the Quran consist purely of Arab/Middle-Eastern names, Hinduism scriptures consist purely of Indian names. Same goes for societal values.
  • You will not find out of place names like .. the Lord Meng Huo or King Murugan in the Bible – That’s because Christianity is originally an European religion, just like Islam which was largely an Arabian religion. You will not see that cow and monkey are sacred animals in the holy books. That’s because these animals are only sacred in India and not in Europe.
  • There is not even a single religion in the world which highlights the diversity of people around the world but rather, focusing only on their own people.
  • Isn’t it strange and funny that Asians are actually indulging in a religion which is only meant and written for European/Arab people (Christianity and Islam)?

Therefore, based on the trends above, I believe that monotheism religion, sooner or later, will become obsolete as the scientific area advances. Like now, there are already some branches of Christianity which has openly accepted Evolution. Don’t forget, Evolution was fiercely rejected by religion only in the last century ago.

Religion will never go away as, for the mean time, human couldn’t psychologically break away from the Cause-and-Effect-delusion – I can see the Effect but what is the Cause? If I can’t/don’t understand the Cause, therefore it must be a mystery. If it’s a mystery, it must be miraculous or magical and must be the work of divine. Hence, God must exist.

We often, without our awareness, adopt a very self-centric view in perceiving the reality. Many people will go – I’m logical, I’m rational, I’m Intelligent. I can understand this and that. If i don’t understand something, it’s not my fault but the subject’s fault because it is hard to understand. If there is something which is nearly impossible to understand, it’s not because my brain is lousy and couldn’t understand it but rather it must be magical or a miracle. It must be the work of divine power, or else why couldn’t I understand it?

We have to understand that whenever we encounter a mystery, it’s not because the thing is really a mystery. Rather, we have an ignorant mind -We simply do not know. If you could expand your mind, and see the big picture, you will realize religion which preach to believe in God actually is not significant at all to humanity. Individual human’s life span is around 70-90 years old, but compared it to the history of 10,000 years, our life span is nothing. To understand religion, we just can’t look at the history of the past 50-100 years but it is essential to understand the root of religion over several thousand of years.

Human being loves super-heroes in comics and manga. But we can worship them only in our fantasy and imagination. However, in religion, we could actually openly worship this super-hero called God without being labeled as lunatic or crazy … I will be glad to link it as psychological glitch in our mind.

Religion will continue to evolve to keep up with the progress of scientific work. Once there’s a new discovery, some theologian will alter their holy book/scripture interpretation to keep up with the reality. I will not at all be surprised if one day religion evolves to something similar as in the movie Matrix where our God is basically a computer program. Religion’s role is about coping with mysteries and uncertainties, therefore, take away mysteries and uncertainty, there’s no longer any reason for the existence of religion.

That’s why we are not worshipping fire anymore.

Beside that, we must also never forget that before the age of secularism, state religion is pretty common where a nation endorsed religious beliefs and incorporate it as law and code of ethics. What better ways are there to control the masses than rallying them with divine being as a form of motivation, albeit a delusion?

The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity. – Einstein

Written by elan85

September 22, 2008 at 5:36 am

Posted in Atheism, Philosophy

Morality, Free Will and Innateness

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For the moment, I will not write anything about our psychological glitch just yet. I feel that there’s a need to address something more important regarding philosophy of morality. I suggest that you read this essay properly and connect all my arguments wisely.

On Free Will

In this TED video, Spencer Wells mentioned that the Neanderthal (human species’ cousin who have already gone extinct) which lives around 60,000 years ago did not evolve much compared with the ancient primates ancestors which lived a million years ago. He referred to this as a ‘long cultural stasis’ due to the lack of revolution in the tools used – these two groups basically were using similar tools over million years! In other words, the intelligence of these primates did not evolve much during these periods.

Now here, I will want to pose two simple questions –

1. Why did the primates which lived approximately one million years ago till 60,000 years ago did not make any significant progress in terms of intellectual advancement?  This should be an interesting question considering human has made such rapid progress and growth over the past 6,000 years alone.

2.  If human had remained stagnant during those years, how did human evolve out of this stagnancy? Then this lead to another question – how did human being discover advanced intellectual techniques such as writing and drawing?

Let’s answer the first question first. Contrary to popular beliefs, intelligence and knowledge is not progressive which increases over time. It’s just like cockroaches which already exist since the dinosaur era – they do not evolve to be more intelligent or creative over these years, perhaps more adaptability, but nothing more. (We need to first throw away the idea that human being is special and gifted with intelligence since the start of the age. We are actually just an animal just like the others to begin with.)

So, how did we evolve out of the stagnancy? Something drastic must have happened during 60,000 which drives a massive Evolution in primates.

Around 50,000 – 60,000 years ago, Spencer Wells remarked of an hypothesis that an extreme weather condition may have driven the primates species close to extinction. There were perhaps around 2,000 of them left. Naturally, this triggered an extreme natural selection where the not-so-intelligent primates will die of not knowing what to do while the smarter ones survived perhaps because they get to invent some tools to withstand the harsh weather condition or they found a way to not to die. After this grueling period, naturally, the surviving ‘intelligent’ gene will propagate to the entire species and remain dominant.

From that onwards, our genetics had gone off on a tangent to a totally new direction. Basically, our intelligence keep evolving to be better and better  in an accelerated evolution.

5,800 years ago, a gene called ASPM undergone an accelerated evolution (after the divergence of human and chimpanzees), causing the rapidly exploding brain size of our ancestors. (Notice that primates and chimpanzees do not have a wide forehead like human being do. Therefore, it is widely believe that our forehead is the area of higher intelligence, hence the superstitious beliefs that the wider forehead you have, the more intelligent you are.). This ASPM variant arose coincident with the spread of agricultural, cities and the first record of written language.

I suppose this discovery is extremely important in bringing up a new dimension of outlook in human intelligence. The first human being who discovered writing did not discover it by sheer learning or some form of discovery. It was his genes which allow him to understand the concept and importance of writing – a higher level of thinking, a higher level of technique.

So ultimately, what’s the point of me bringing up this history of humanity? It’s to point out to you that, to some extent, you have no free will. Because if you bother to dwell into this ‘essence’ or ‘gist’ and then spread it wide in your mind, you will realize a number of so called conventional wisdom are pretty obsolete. Many people always carry a similar delusion with them wherever they go, which is – I can learn this and I can learn that. I can learn to become as great as him, I can learn to become a genius. If you think you can, you can!

It seems to me, the genes have a better say than your own little will.

On intellectual Capacity

Consider this scenario – If I show my cat or dog on how to browse the Internet, do you think my pets will be able to pick up this skill? I know I can keep doing it in front of them for millennia, but I’m sure animals will never understand it.  Why? Because non-human animals do not have such capacity to understand what we are doing. (Same goes when you show arts or drawings to animals). However, if I show a computer or Internet to the people who lives in tribes, village or rural areas, who have minimal exposure to technology, will they eventually understand what Internet is all about? The answer is yes, as proven by Sugata Mitra who discovered that rural Indian people, especially children, taught themselves to understand Internet and English, all by themselves. How could they do it? Because as a human being, they have the ‘capacity’ to understand language and technology even when they have never encountered it before.

All of us, including the animals, are born with a set of genes which already determined from the start the extent of our intellectual capacity. Dogs will not understand art, because it requires higher intelligence which exist outside of its genetic code.

What about geniuses like Einstein? We know that Einstein is a born genius, but nevertheless, he does not have a God-like super intelligence or else he would have solved every single world mystery. And that shows one thing – he is super intelligent, but not great by universal standards and that means, there’s a limit of how intelligent he can be, hence, a capacity. Let me illustrate the capacity below.

intelligence

We are all born with a certain extent of capacity. The factor which will fill in the level we are at is depending on the environment around us. A typical urban dweller may score an above average intelligence if he has a good quality education, growing up in the right environment or mixing with right people. Perhaps he will be a dumb boy because he lives in an environment which do not appreciate or encourage intelligence. But he will never be able to break the limit to become a genius, unless his genes allow him to be.

Hypothetically speaking, what if Einstein is born in a tribal village in Africa? Will he still exist to be a genius or will he become part of the village idiots? Chances are, he will remain to be a village idiot simply because he is surrounded by only village idiots. Maybe not. Perhaps he could be philosophical thinker, due to extreme curiosity, and question the tribe’s conventional wisdom. Perhaps, he will be the only one who could think out of the box within the tribal community and proceed to revolutionize the entire village. Perhaps, he will just remain a nobody’s village idiot.

The point here is Einstein may become great in this tribal village, or he may not, depending on various circumstances. But he certainly has the tendency or potential to be great because he has the capacity which allow him to achieve it.

So, if you want to go as high or be as great as possible, perhaps somebody like Roger Federer in tennis, the pre-requisite condition is not to train/practice as hard like he does. Rather, you need to have the similar ‘gift’ or the ‘capacity’ that he has. Same goes for other areas whether its sports, arts , music, science, entrepreneurship, etc.

Everyone can achieve a certain level of goodness, but to be great you need to have this gifted capacity.

On Morality

So, in this last part of the essay, I will like to ask a big question – If there’s no free will in Intelligence, in the sense we are bound by the limited capacity to a certain extent, then is there free will in Morality?

Contrary to popular beliefs, human being do not act or make decisions by using rationality, rather we often use our emotions to make decisions (no matter how rational you think you are).

“The brain is like a good lawyer: give any set of interests to defend, it sets about convincing the world of their moral and logical worth regardless of whether they in fact have any of either. Like a lawyer,  the human brain wants victory, not truth; and like a lawyer, it is sometimes more admirable for skill than virtue.” – Robert Wright

Due to this very same condition, human being are often unconsciously ‘confused’ in the realm of abstract moral values – Why is it morally bad to steal things from your good friends but it is morally good to steal things from, let’s say the rich and greedy landlord (just like Robin Hood did). Thinking rationally, isn’t stealing an immoral act regardless of the circumstances? But no, as mentioned, human being think with emotions first, hence, there’s a tendency for us to subjectively label things as ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’. “Robin Hood is our hero because he robbed the greedy landlords and gave us back our hard-earned money!”

Very emotionally comforting and emotionally ‘justified’ but not at all rational, no?

To know why we behave in such a way, we first need to understand that human being, just like other primates, are social animals. (Different kind of animals live in different ways for the purpose of survival. There are animals which live in colony, some animals are solitude and some live in packs. )

When a group of animals live in a social environment, the most important element is always reciprocity – a relation of mutual dependence. Take back cheating and stealing as an example. Why do we think cheaters are immoral? Because cheaters invest less, but receive equal or more benefits.  And if cheaters are not detected, caught and punished, they will outcompete the non-cheaters and dominate the social community. If cheaters dominate the society, the reciprocity system will crumble. And that’s the end of the purpose of living in social groups.

Hence, looking from evolutionary psychology point of view, disliking the act of cheating is a very innate ability within all of us. But hey, if we inherently dislike the act of cheating, then why do we still tell lies? As I have mentioned, human do not engage in rational thinking but an emotional one. We do not like to be cheated or lied, but it doesn’t mean we will not cheat or lie to the others. Very paradoxical but it is the way how our mind is wired. (This behaviour is actually related to my post Self Deception – Cooking Facts and it will take me one full post to explain how they are linked.)

Plus, if we act rationally all the time within the social construct, chances are we will abandon our parents (too old and tedious to take care off) or partner (looking for a more beautiful and younger partner) or perhaps working with the enemy (may offers more benefits) which is extremely counter-beneficial to the society. Therefore, emotions is essential to glue us within a culture.

I have lost the link to the source, but in one research, it shows that even 1-2 years old children understand the concept of unfairness. How can you teach that unless it is somehow hardwired in our brain, I wonder.

Lastly, let’s again ask a very hypothetical question – Could Hitler have made a choice of not becoming an evil tyrant? Could he chose to be a good guy? Or was he already destined to be an evil dictator?

I will not want to draw any conclusions on this but to leave it up to you to judge. If you need some hints, I hope the little passage below will be able to help you.

But the real wrong turn came later, at the point where someone said, "Hey, how do you know that superintelligence will be moral?  Intelligence has nothing to do with being a good person, you know – that’s what we call wisdom, young prodigy."

And lo, it seemed obvious to the young Eliezer, that this was mere denial.  Certainly, his own painstakingly constructed code of ethics had been put together using his intelligence and resting on his intelligence as a base.  Any fool could see that intelligence had a great deal to do with ethics, morality, and wisdom; just try explaining the Prisoner’s Dilemma to a chimpanzee, right?

Surely, then, superintelligence would necessarily imply supermorality.

(Eliezer Yudkowsky)

Written by elan85

September 16, 2008 at 7:26 am

Posted in Philosophy

Morality, Animals and Religion

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Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion Steven Weinberg, Nobel Laureate Physicist. 

When I was 12 years old, there was a time when I came across a few stray kittens on the roadside. Seeing these little helpless and hungry kittens purring, I took my precious 50 cents and bought some bread to feed them. Thinking back, it’s kinda silly since bread is not a natural diet for cats.

When I was 18, I came across a baby bird on the ground with its leg broken and it just kept chipping. I presume its crying in pain. When I looked up, I saw the mother bird and father bird depressingly looking down at our direction. It clearly fell down from the nest. My first reaction was to carry this baby bird to the closest vet to heal its leg. But I realized there isn’t any nearby. My second thought was, if I can’t help the baby bird, maybe I should use my bottle to crush and end its life so that it doesn’t need to suffer any longer. But I thought perhaps it is too cruel to do it in front of mother bird and father bird. Not knowing what to do, I’d decided to leave it alone.

I kept thinking of the baby bird for the next several hours. In the late evening on the same day, I return to the same spot to see the bird. And its dead. Perhaps its a good thing for the bird but nevertheless, it left me with a moment of sadness.

Back in my teenage days, I wasn’t as actively inquisitive as I am today, therefore I’m sure there isn’t any rational actions behind my encounter with these animals – it’s all emotionally  instinctive. Clearly, altruism plays a big part in our human being’s emotion.

Think of all those small things you did which you do not expect any direct reward or acknowledgement. Like saving a drowning bug in the pond and place it on the ground. Or perhaps you give some coins to the poor beggar on the street. Or helping an old lady who tripped on the road. Or feeding the hungry stray dogs on the street. Or any other deeds which you did that gave you a sense of gratification without expecting any reward or favour back. That’s altruism. And I truly believe, for some reasons, it is innate to human being.

Thus, we need to abolish the notion that morality comes from God and religion. Yes, of course, religion plays a big part in spreading the idea of morality, albeit being hypocritical in some instances. But before I explain what those hypocritical things are all about, first look at these two remarkable quotes below.

‘If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.’ – Albert Einstein, Nobel Laureate Physicist. 

‘Do you really mean to tell me the only reason you try to be good is to gain God’s approval and reward, or to avoid his disapproval and punishment? That’s not morality, that’s just sucking up and applepolishing’. – Richard Dawkins, Biologist. 

One of the most ugly arguments from religious people is – If there’s no God, there will be no morality and human being are please to do all sort of evil and this world will become a dark world. Then I will just echo Richard Dawkins answer – so do you mean that you’re doing good things because of sucking up to the God?

Actually, both the argument and reply above are stated from a very extreme point of view. Hence, I do not think it bears any significance or worthwhile thoughts to ponder on. But I guess a garbage argument deserve a garbage reply. Let’s look at other points.

The holy books gave a very simplistic view of human morality saying that human are basically born sinful and we can choose the path of whether to do good or evil in our lifetime. And God list down all the moral values that we should adhere. God defined what is right and what is wrong. And so I was thinking, assuming that the holy book is right, I wonder how the conversation will turn out to be should I get a chance to speak with a Pastor/Priest/Father on this topic…..

Ronn : Is saving life, even if it just an insect’s life is a good moral deed? Like saving a bug from drowning in the pond?

Pastor/Priest/Father : The answer is clear. What do you think?

Ronn : I guess it would be a good moral deed since its a pathetic act to just watch the bug drown and die. I will certainly feel bad and guilty not doing anything to save it from suffering when all I just need to do is to take a stick to lift it away from the water. What do you think?

Pastor/Priest/Father : I think that’s a good answer.

Ronn : But thinking about it logically, even if I save the bug, since it is in the bottom of the ecology’s pyramid food chain, it will eventually be eaten by bird, frog or lizards. It will basically die sooner or later. Plus, the God clearly says in the holy book that human is his special creation while animals are second class life to human. Which means all other animals are inferior to human being. Why do I get some sense of gratification from saving an inferior species like a bug even if I don’t get any direct rewards or acknowledgement from the bug? Why is it a morally good deed to save a bug?

Pastor/Priest/Father: No, I think you get it wrong. Jesus taught us to love and that’s not limited to only human but also including animals. We must spread the love. God knows your good intention when you save the little bug.

Ronn : If we are supposed to love animals, then why religion condone the fact that human being kill animals for their meat? Why is it a morally good deed to prevent suffering by saving the bug but it is also morally okay to slaughter a chicken for its meat? Don’t chicken also value their life and struggle in pain when slaughtered? So what’s exactly morality?

Pastor/Priest/Father: Morality is something defined by God not by us. According to the bible, God created animals and put them under our command. We control their fate and we can choose to love them or eat their meat.

Ronn : For the sake of seeking consistency in religion’s definition of morality, can we love animals yet putting them in our stomach at the same time? Or is there a double standard where we can love some animals like dogs and cats and not love some animals like chicken and cow and put them in our stomach instead? So, it is suppose to make sense and be accepted even if its logically contradicts and void of consistency? How about mosquitoes, the number 1 bio-terrorist in the world which we will never think twice to exterminate. Why do God put something which we will never love on the face of the Earth?

Pastor/Priest/Father: God do not think the same way as we human do. We can never understand his thoughts. We need to keep the faith.

Religion is never short of contradictions, no? That’s exactly what morally hypocritical I’m talking about .Another moral hypocrisy is the point that it says Thou Shalt Not Kill but condoning the act of killing in war (because they are enemies, so the double standard applies).

However, putting the imaginary God and religion aside, this contradiction still applies if perceived from an objective secular point of view.  Why do we feel the emotion of sympathy when we see a dying bird or a drowning bug but yet, we do not feel any remorse or guilt when eating, let’s say chicken meat or beef? Believe me, you just need to watch some videos of how animals are slaughter in big farms or dens to turn yourself a vegetarian overnight. In this sense, ignorance is bliss, really.

But think deeper another level again. Why do we feel so uncomfortable watching an animal getting slaughtered alive but it is okay if we put a piece of cooked meat into our mouth? Unless you’re a professional butcher who has already adapted in slaughtering animals, else chances is that you could not bear watching the gore of animals being killed alive. As it turns out, apparently, it’s a psychological flaw that we have which creates such contradiction. A bug. A glitch. A faulty evolutionary psychology.

I will explain that more in the next post.

Written by elan85

September 10, 2008 at 4:07 am

Posted in Atheism, Philosophy

Male Supremacy? Of The Differences Between Men and Women.

with 12 comments

Feminist often argued that men and women are equal in every sense. Some people used the idea of Tabula Rasa, better known as The Blank Slate to justify the idea that every person is born without any innate abilities and everything is learnt from the environment including the differences between men and women – Everything is “Nurtured”. This is certainly a very politically correct and pleasing answer to listen and accept. But is a ‘correct’ answer which gives comfort and some sense of security equates to truth?

The answer, to me at least, is pretty straight forward – accepting the idea of Blank Slate means dismissing Evolution because everyone, to a certain extent, is born with certain innate abilities. I will illustrate my point by using chimpanzees as a comparison.

In one of my previous posts, I highlighted the fact that chimpanzees are our closest relatives from Evolution’s standpoint. Richard Wrangham, a researcher from Harvard said …

“Very few animals live in patrilineal, male-bonded communities wherein females routinely reduce the risks of inbreeding by moving to neighboring group to mate. And only two animal species are known to do so with a system of intense, male-initiated territorial aggression, including lethal raiding into neighboring communities in search of vulnerable enemies to attack and kill. Out of four thousand mammals and ten million or more other animal species, this suite of behaviors is know only among chimpanzees and human.” – Richard Wrangham.

If you are holding the idea that chimpanzees are just some cute little friendly creatures, think again. Chimpanzees, one of the more intelligent animals, are capable of using ‘tools’ to fight. They use wood branch and stone and practically, beat and stone other chimpanzees to death. Chimpanzee community raid enemy’s territory and ‘capture’ the area to assert their dominance and gain the spoils (food). However, it is only the male chimpanzees which do all the fighting, warfare and killing. The female, on the other hand, do all the foraging  work and taking care of the young within the community. As mentioned, chimps practice patrilineal lifestyle, which means, the territory is often passed down from father to son. Perhaps another remarkable thing about chimpanzees – they can go all the way to exterminate other chimpanzee communities via systematic massacre.

Do chimps reminds you anything about human being? Briefly scanning through our humanity history, there’s nothing short of surprises for us to know that our past is full of bloodshed. In some sense, this sophisticatedly violent behaviour is shared by our common ancestor of human being with our cousin chimps and is passed down generation over generation.

(I have once contemplated on why do cows are so content to just graze grass day and night for their whole entire life while human get bored even if we have just 2 similar meals on the same day.  I was pretty clueless until I read the book Human by M. Gazzaniga. In the second chapter of the book, he described that one of the reasons why chimpanzees engage in warfare in capturing territories is due to food. Chimps by nature, are driven by luxurious, high-quality and difficult-to find food. In ecology-economics, it is called as cost-of-grouping theory which states that the size of the chimpanzee community depends on the resources around it. The more variety and abundant of food they have, the bigger the size of the community it will be, which means a more dominating and stronger group within the territory. Hence, this form of ‘desire’ is an inherited behaviour from our common ancestor as a way to establish a powerful community/clan/group)

Back to the gender differences, it’s clear we share many basic instincts with the chimps and that’s including the role between men and women. As i have very clearly argued here 6 months ago – The Perceived Value – it is extremely important to recognize that due to Evolution, men and women are not exactly equal in every sense – we are different. A little abstract of what i’ve written:

I always believe men, generally, are more intelligent than women in conceiving big-world-changing-complex-ideas. Just refer to the history and notice that 99% of the great scientists, inventors, and philosophers are male. But does that means the ladies are inferior to men? Absolutely not. Empathy is one of the many traits which men generally severely lack off while it is innate to most female.

Again, it is all down to the ‘Perceived Value’. Empathy is perceived more as a manners or morality while conceiving big ideas is an ability. The society rate Intelligence as more valuable, hence creating an impression that the male species are superior.

I believe men and women are equal. But I don’t believe men and women are equal in the sense of “corresponding-equality”. It is more of ‘total-equality’. Clueless? I invented these crappy terms, so i will explain the meanings,.

1. Corresponding-equality : What men can do, women can too. There’s no gap between men and women and we are 100% precisely equal in every sense.

2. Total-equality : Men & Women have different sets of strengths & weaknesses. But when you sum up these plus and minus together, men and women are actually equal.

Most feminist movements are championing the corresponding-equality ideology. I do not agree with their philosophy because i think it will take away the uniqueness of difference between men and women. Relationships are interesting because there are different ‘roles’ involved from both sides.

The reason why the disparity between gender exist in the first place is because we are hardwired to function in such a way to fulfil certain roles which Evolution wants us to be (hence, it seems we do not have much free will at macro-level). The female is evolved to be more concerned on issues pertaining to human – children, family, household matters, food, emotional aspects, etc. Hence, it explains why female are more interested in academics which are more people-oriented such as medical, pharmacy, biology, psychology, and also business area (which deals with network of people such as management and marketing). The male on the other hand is evolved to be more concerned with things which is beyond human being. That’s why men are more interested in abstract matter such as science, technology, engineering, music & arts, mathematics and entrepreneurship (which in some way boost our pride).

But you might say, there now exist a sense of equality between men and women. And it seems that we ‘learned’ and ‘nurtured’ the sense equality in humanity over these many years. If so, how could we evolved to have separate roles in the first place? My answer would be, if we could ‘evolved in’ to have roles, then we could also ‘evolved out’ of the roles. Discrimination has lessen over the years in the sense of sexism, racism, etc. and I believe we are evolving towards a Type 1 civilization (as described by Michio Kaku) where we will move to skin-colour-blind society and think from humanity point of view (instead from race or nation point of view). All i can tell you – free will is not as straightforward as you think if you link it with Evolution, genetics, and neuroscience. I will leave it to another time to explain it in more details.

The males are certainly the more dominant gender in human and chimpanzee. But it’s not right to think that the males are the universal dominant gender in every single  species in this animal kingdom. There are certain species of insects and birds where the females are the more dominant ones. Just like the mantis which practice sexual cannibalism where the female kill and eat the male after mating. All these diversities are the product of Evolution.

Written by elan85

September 3, 2008 at 3:00 am