Freethinking for Dummies

Skepticism, secular humanism, social issues

Be Good For Goodness’ Sake

Telling someone that they shouldn’t steal or murder or rape because if they get caught they will go to prison is not teaching morality.  Similarly, telling someone that they shouldn’t engage in these same types of behaviors because the will got to hell is not teaching morality either.  What it is doing is teaching that these behaviors are bad, not because the are intrinsically immoral, but because there is the risk of negative consequences.

This type of thinking ignores the real effect of immoral actions: that they harm others.  That crime, deceit, and violence robs a person of a part of their humanity.  It attacks one of the greatest truths ever put forth by the human mind:  that we all are created equal, that we “are endowed with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (1)

True morals should be based on this principle.  They should also be based on empathy and love for our fellow Homo sapiens who we share out planet with.  By holding up threats of punishment, either in this life or a mythical one beyond it, we dehumanize each other and desensitize ourselves to the humanity within others.  

This mindset can lead to disdain of those who are seen as violating some peoples’ personal or religious morals, many of which are inhumane, insensitive, and inhumane.  

The same holds for being moral and doing good deeds for others because we empathize with their plight.  We should do kind things not expecting anything in return, but because it is intrinsically the right thing to do.  To only do good, be it giving to charity, doing a favor for a friend, or giving a blanket to a cold homeless person just because we expect a reward in heaven or to boost our status within our social circles reeks of  callousness.  These types of people do good not because it is the right thing to do, but because they are greedy for reward.  When they give to charity, help at soup kitchens, they are often thinking not of those who benefit from their deeds, but of the benefit to their social status and/or their eternal reward.

Santa Clause, that fictional character of Christmas cheer, summed up the true basis of morality:  be good for goodness’ sake.

 

(1) The Declaration of Independence

are created equal, that they are endowed

January 31, 2013 Posted by | Atheism, Humanism, Religion, secular humanism, Social Justice | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Redefining “Makers” and “Takers”

There has been much talk from the political right about makers and takers.  Let us take a closer look at these terms.

Here is how the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines these terms:

Makes: 

  • to bring into being by forming, shaping, or altering material : fashion 
  • to lay out and construct
  • to put together from components
  • to assemble to
  • repare, fix

Maker: 

  • one that makes

Takes:  

  • to get into one’s hands or into one’s possession, power, or control
  • to transfer into one’s own keeping
  • to obtain or secure for use
  • to obtain possession

Taker:  

  • one who takes


American workers make things.  Lots of things.  

  • physical things like cars, buildings, roads, clothes, etc.  
  • productive, non-physical things like spreadsheets, reports, financial forecasts, sales, ideas, computer code and applications.
  • intangible services, like customer service, technical support, mechanical repairs, maintenance of equipment, processes, and workflow.


As for the job creators:

  • they take the fruit of the workers.
  • profits from sale or use of the cars, buildings, roads, clothing, etc.
  • profits that are maintained by the rest of the above mentioned services and productivity by American workers.

 

For the American worker, for their hard work, the work of their hands, brains, and ingenuity, they get:

  • one to two weeks vacation a year (often after a year or more with the company)
  • health insurance and a retirement package, if they are lucky enough to be working a full time schedule (many aren’t)
  • five paid sick days a year, if they are lucky enough.  Many get none.
  • unpaid maternity leave (which many can’t afford due to lose of income)
  • twelve weeks of unpaid leave (which many can’t afford due to lose of income)
  • a wage that they may or may not be able support themselves and a family on, if they are lucky (many must work two or more jobs to make ends meet)
  • a safe working environment, assuming their employer is following the law (laws that were put in place because unions fought for them)

 


It is time to correctly define our political terms.  The real makers are the people who make everything that make profits for the real takers: the “job creators”.

The makers are the American workers.

The takers are the owners, CEOs, VPs, stock holders of the companies where the makers work.

It would seem, looking at things in this context that the takers take home much more of the fruits of the labor of the makers than the makers themselves could ever hope to.

We pride ourselves on being a nation that built its self up from nothing to the most powerful nation in the world.  But all of the real work; the hands that produced the materials; built the homes and great works of architecture; did the research that led to amazing technological advances; the men and women who fought and died in our wars, they made everything we see around us.

The American workers are, and always have been, the true makers, while the real takers have lived high on the hog of the fruits of their labors.

     

     

      

 





January 30, 2013 Posted by | Humanism, Social Justice | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Fine Tuning Falacy

There is an argument that because there are many properties of our universe that if changed by even a small amount would have made the universe impossible to support life.  Some people like to use this as proof that the universe had to have been created because everything is “just right” for life to exist.

If, for example, the strong nuclear force were 2% stronger than it is (i.e., if the coupling constant representing its strength were 2% larger), while the other constants were left unchanged, diprotons would be stable and hydrogen would fuse into them instead of deuterium and helium.[9] This would drastically alter the physics of stars, and presumably preclude the existence of life similar to what we observe on Earth. The existence of the di-proton would short-circuit the slow fusion of hydrogen into deuterium. Hydrogen would fuse so easily that it is likely that all of the Universe’s hydrogen would be consumed in the first few minutes after the Big Bang.  (1)

On the face of it, this seems to make sense in regards to an intelligent designer of the universe.  If everything is just perfect to support life, then it must have been designed that way.  

But look at it from a different way.  We are here.  We exist.  Of course the universe seems fine tuned for us, simply because we are here to observe it.  It is a fluke of nature.  Just as a depression in the ground wasn’t specially created to hold a puddle after the rain, our universe wasn’t specially created just for us to live in.

We have to get over the idea that we are somehow special.  99% of all species that have ever existed have gone extinct.  Many of those existed for millions of years before disappearing.  We, as a species, have only been here, maybe 500,000 years.  The earth doesn’t care about us.  Nature doesn’t care about us.  Neither does the universe.  

We are just a happy happenstance.  Star stuff that coalesced into a star with planets.  Once of those was the earth.  It was in the right place, at the right time, with the right stuff.  

On second thought, perhaps that does make us special.  But not because we are the pinnacle of some grand plan, but because we are lucky enough to have been in the right place at the right time.  Serendipity.  Splendid serendipity.

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine-tuned_Universe#Premise

If, for example, the strong nuclear force were 2% stronger than it is (i.e., if the coupling constant representing its strength were 2% larger), while the other constants were left unchanged, diprotons would be stable and hydrogen would fuse into them instead of deuterium and helium.[9] This would drastically alter the physics of stars, and presumably preclude the existence of life similar to what we observe on Earth. The existence of the di-proton would short-circuit the slow fusion of hydrogen into deuterium. Hydrogen would fuse so easily that it is likely that all of the Universe’s hydrogen would be consumed in the first few minutes after the Big Bang.

January 29, 2013 Posted by | Science | , , | Leave a comment

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 17,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 4 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

January 24, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

An Update, a Rant About Medical Insurance, And a Plea

I haven’t been posting much here lately.   I literally have dozens of writing ideas stashed away in my blog research notebook, but I just haven’t been able to get anything written. 

The main reason is that I lost my job a little over two months ago.  We’ve been lucky so far in that we have some financial resources that we have been able to draw on to keep us afloat, but these are quickly running out.  Unemployment barley pays the bills and will leave nothing left over if that is the only thing we have to live on.  Food stamps help, but $100 a month is hardly enough to feed a family of four.  

I suffer from Bi-polar II and depression.  I take medication for it.  Still, the depression has been acute and this makes it very hard to concentrate, so writing anything of substance is difficult.

I’ve been using what little concentration I have to concentrate on finding a new job.  The medication I take at least gives me enough stability to do that.  I’ve had several interviews that didn’t pan out, and I have three more companies who want to interview me, but the Holidays put that off.  Next week will hopefully see a lot of movement on the jobs front.

Going back to the issue of medical insurance, Medicaid covers the kids, but for my wife an I, we can’t get anything until we have met a $1100 monthly deductible.  That’s almost as much as we are bringing in.  I’m lucky.  Being a veteran, I can go to the VA hospital here and get my medication for only $8 per prescription.  My wife’s medication, on the other hand, we have to pay out of pocket.  These run to several hundred dollars a month, making it even harder to make ends meet.

All of this makes me wonder, if I didn’t have access to the VA, and can’t afford to pay for my medication out of pocket ($300+ per month), how would I ever be able to look for a job?  Without my medication I would almost surely be so bad off that I would either never get out of bed, end up in an inpatient facility, or dead.  Seriously.   Before I was diagnosed as Bi-polar II and got on the medication to treat it, I was suicidal.  The only thing keeping me from killing myself were my kids.  Since they live with me, I somehow managed to keep it together enough to care for them.  If I didn’t have them, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t be here now.  

So, back to my point.  If people like myself can’t get the medication they need to function, or in some cases even live (think diabetics who can’t afford their insulin, heart patients who can’t afford their heart medication), how can we be expected to function well enough to actually find a job?  Job searching is hard.  It is time consuming and incredibly depressing.  Every rejection, or even every non-reply, is a slap down .  How can you be expected to perform well at an interview if your mental state makes you anxious and jumpy, or depressed and lethargic (something all in the same day)?   What if your diabetes or heart condition make it impossible to even get out to an interview?

Eventually, you could end up in the hospital (on the government’s dime), or worse.   The least the government could do is to cover medications that people need to function while we are collecting unemployment and looking for a job.  Otherwise, we become a burden to the state for much longer than we might otherwise, not to mention the terrible toll it can take on ourselves and our families.

Anywhoo, I still have some stock in my old company that I can sell if a job doesn’t come my way before the end of this month.  It isn’t much, but will mostly cover rent.  

Not being able to write is really bothering me.  I have an article being published in Skeptical Inquirer magazine in a few months.  I hope to use the exposure that I get from that to find other writing opportunities, not just to boost my ego, but to make some extra money.   Even one paying article per month would help pay a car payment or car insurance.  To do this, though, requires that I can be seen to be able to write not just well, but consistently and constantly.  That is something I’m making a priority, now that I’m starting to feel somewhat better (was without meds for a while until I could get things going at the VA).

Given this, I’m making a plea to anyone reading this.  I don’t want you to send money or anything like that, but if you know of anyone or anyplace needing some writing done, please let me know, or let them know about me.   I know I said I’ve been having a hard time writing, but if I have a deadline I always have been able to deliver the goods.  It would be a job, after all.

You may be asking yourself how I am able to write this if I’ve been having so much trouble.  Easy, it’s about me.  No research needed.

 

 

January 6, 2013 Posted by | Humanism, Social Justice | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

   

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