Month: December 2011

The gospel according to rationalbrain

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The usual end-of-year introspection, coupled with a beer or two, gets one to thinking.

And so is born the gospel according to rationalbrain. 

In case you were wondering, the word gospel derives from the Old English ‘gōd-spell’, meaning ‘good news’ or ‘glad tidings’.

Happy New Year to you all.

The Scheme of  Things 1

1:1   Beginnings

  1. It is self evident:
  2. That We are a group of complex biological organisms on quite a nice little planet.
  3. That the planet is quite nice simply because We evolved to match what it could provide for Us.
  4. That We have senses and responses which developed for the purpose of surviving and thriving on this quite nice little planet.
  5. That those senses also provide the functionality required to for Us to see beyond the trees, the ground and the sea, to the expanses beyond our nice little planet and to the microscopic components within it.

1:2 Awakenings

  1. It is also clear:
  2. That We have developed sufficient complexity over millions of years to transcend mere observation and reaction, and to add to Our inventory the ability to plan, to dream, to calculate, to communicate and to conceive of that which does not exist in physical form.
  3. And thus to conceive of Self and understand Its place on this quite nice little planet, and Its place in the We.
  4. But also to conceive of shadows and ghosts and consider them real, born of the senses and responses developed for the purpose of surviving and thriving on this quite nice little planet.

1:3 Conflicts

  1. And thus We now see:
  2. That the We differentiated according to the shadows and ghosts and the location of the We on this quite nice little planet.
  3. That the shadows and ghosts of each of the We became the reason for the existence of the We.
  4. That, for the biological organisms, obedience to the shadows and ghosts superseded the purpose of of surviving and thriving on this quite nice little planet.
  5. And thus some organisms were selected for survival by the followers of the shadows and ghosts, while others were extinguished.

1:3 Ages of Reason

  1. And furthermore We now see:
  2. That conception of the non-physical was developed by the complex organisms for the purpose of surviving and thriving, and not as tools for division of the We.
  3. For exploration and understanding of the abstract and unseen.
  4. For invention and extrapolation of the unknown.
  5. And therefore the survival of biological organisms is incompatible with obedience to shadows and ghosts.

1:4 Transcendence

  1. And finally We now see:
  2. That reality consists of the We, and of the quite nice little planet.
  3. And that the complex biological organisms must re-focus their well-earned capabilities to the purpose of surviving and thriving on this quite nice little planet .
  4. And not in the obedience of the shadows and ghosts.

1:5 That will be all.

Essay: Humanity analysed

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Care for an analysis of what makes humanity tick?

Correspondent Neutralturn has further developed his thoughts, originally sketched in this post, into an essay. In case you looked at this link, Pizza is the original pseudonym, and Neutralturn is the pseudo-pseudonym. And that also explains why you never see Pizza and Neutralturn in the same room together.

In this essay, Humanae Vitae – An Unauthorised Version, Neutralturn tackles this modest little topic with his now customary ‘surgical’ analysis, and in the process perhaps challenges our intuition on the subject.

An Atheist’s Sermon

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To complement the recent Atheist’s Carol (which you really need to see), here’s another outstanding contribution from the guys at the Reasonable Doubts podcast, and in particular Jeremy Beahan. As background, Jeremy was raised as a fundamentalist christian, and studied religion at university level. At some point he ‘converted’ to atheism, has gone on to be one of the most knowledgeable and articulate speakers on religion going around.

That he was invited to to give this sermon at the ‘All Souls Unitarian Church’ in his home town is remarkable, but perhaps explained by the refreshingly inclusive nature of this church – you can read a bit about it here.

Sit back and listen to An Atheist’s Sermon, which conveys many of my own thoughts on the subject far more eloquently than I could ever do.

Another dangerous anti-vaxxer goes into print

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Reasonablehank has written this piece on Stephanie Messenger, who has written an insidious little book entitled ‘Melanie’s Marvellous Measles’.  The summary reads:

“This book takes children aged 4 to 10 years on a journey of discovering about the ineffectiveness of vaccinations, while teaching them to embrace childhood disease, heal if they get a disease, and build their immune systems naturally.”

I understand that Messenger is a grieving mother, having lost a child to what she believes was a reaction to vaccination. And she is not alone in this belief.

However, it is one thing to have the belief that vaccination was the culprit, but quite another to state it as medical fact, and incite others to boycott vaccinations. To do the latter is simply irresponsible, particularly when study after study finds no link between vaccination and serious illness. Yes, there are small risks, but in comparison to the misery which can ravage a community should, for example, measles and mumps kick off again, choosing vaccination is a no-brainer.

What happened to Messenger’s child was sad, but coaxing other parents into leaving their children unvaccinated will amplify that sadness many times.

For those wishing to read further on the whole counter-anti-vaccination scene, have a look at the  Reasonablehank blog.

Vale Christopher Hitchens

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One of my first posts on rationalbrain was a review of ‘God is Not Great’ by Christopher Hitchens.

His writing actually served to inspire me to start this blog, so it was sad to read yesterday that he has died, aged 62. Tobacco claims another scalp.

I was a late-comer to his work, but was immediately impressed by his clear, direct and often witty writing style.

I’m sure he’s in heaven at the keyboard of his word processor.

And I’m certain he would have hated anyone saying that, even as a joke.

TGA reforms? Much ado about nothing.

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Rationalbrain has been eagerly awaiting the outcomes of a recent government review of the Therapeutic Goods Administration – an organisation which has copped a bit of stick on this blog for its rubber-stamping of dubious treatments and devices (see here for example). There was some hope for optimism based on this article a little while ago.

Well, the report is in, and you can read it for yourself here. There’s also an interview on Radio National (thanks Tony) with noted activitist Dr. Ken Harvey here for those who can’t stand the excitement of reading the actual text. The title of the piece on Radio National sums up the report quite well, if you ignore the tired old dog, teeth, bite metaphor: “Health watchdog gets a few more teeth, but still lacks bite“. Read the rest of this entry »