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Comments by Red Dog

Go to: Simply ... should I read the bible?

Red Dog's Avatar Jump to comment 83 by Red Dog

Comment 82 by Jalil :

In the case of the Quran which introduced Science to the world, bits and pieces of it can be found in the Quran, in an attempt to explain that we should obey laws of God, or laws of nature, and not human made laws. This message however is almost completely lost today, the religion being misunderstood and completely twisted by the keepers of the religion who understand not this simple message.

Many laws of nature were discovered after the introduction Islam, and today we call them by their founders name, such as Einstien, Ohms, Newton, Faraday, Pascal, and a host of scientists, many whom have devoted their lives for Science.

The only few remaining traces of Islamic Science that i know of, and is also my favourite, is Al-Kohl, the founder of Alcohol, so the next time you down it, have some consideration for Islam :) and the other is Kamara which is today, the camera.

Thus Science, was born in Greece, became a toddler in Islam,

I've seen these claims before about how the Koran or Islam invented/encouraged science but I've never seen any solid quotes from the Koran or other sources to back them up. Not saying they are false but I would like to see some justification.

Also, regarding Einstein I don't see how someone living before Newton could have discovered or introduced his ideas. You can't really understand Einstein IMO without first understanding (at a minimum) Newton. Who in particular in Islam do you claim got there before Einstein and why?

Wed, 22 Aug 2012 20:50:23 UTC | #951151

Go to: Simply ... should I read the bible?

Red Dog's Avatar Jump to comment 73 by Red Dog

Comment 72 by logicophilosophicus :

@ JHJ/RedDog

It has been suggested here that the Gospel of John is an exception, and is clearly dualist. Let's have a look:..

When I referred to John I didn't see it as supporting dualism. I may have implied that because I didn't want to get into a deep philosophical discussion on the difference between dualism and Platonism. Its been a long time since I read anything on this but from what I recall some scholars view the emphasis on the Logos in John as an example of Neoplatonism.

Tue, 21 Aug 2012 21:02:55 UTC | #951122

Go to: Simply ... should I read the bible?

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Comment 62 by JHJEFFERY :

Comment 61 by logicophilosophicus

Again I think our conversation is more semantic than real, but the NT shows definite signs of dualism. Even the bodily resurrection of JC requires an undead essence to allow for the reanimation of the body. Admittedly this is not articulated in the text.


Matthew 10:28 (NIV)

28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Understand that I am not arguing that Plato himself was solely responsible for the dualism--it was an idea that had been floating in many cultures for centuries before JC.

Keep in mind that the bible was subtly altered by the Catholic scholars who both translated and recopied it. To really judge if that or any section was truly Platonic I think you need to go back to the original Greek and also keep in mind there is some possibility that even that may have been subtly altered.

Bart Ehrman wrote a whole book on this topic: Misquoting the Bible the Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

I'm not saying that I know for sure that that particular quote doesn't reflect Platonism, just that its a complex issue to really understand. I'm no biblical scholar but most of what I've read by Ehrman, Elaine Pagels, and others reinforces the position of logicophilosophicus, that most of the Platonism (as I said Gospel of John is an exception) in Christianity came after most of the bible was written, by other scholars who interpreted the texts and added on additional dogma.

Mon, 20 Aug 2012 22:21:58 UTC | #951082

Go to: Simply ... should I read the bible?

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Comment 54 by JHJEFFERY :

Comment 49 by logicophilosophicus


"Christianity owes a great deal of its theology to Platonic dualism. Likewise, modern theology owes a great deal to the herculean efforts of Aquinas to reconcile the logic of Aristotle with the biblical theology."

Agreed - but not relevant to the Bible itself.

I really don't have any idea what this means. Could you explain how the basis for resurrection throught the dualism of the soul and body has nothing to do with the book in which it is written? A few more words might help.

I think what he meant, or at least what I interpreted the first time I read that, is that while Platonism was certainly important for Christian theology, most if not all of that came after the bible itself was written, not in the actual text of the bible but in interpretations by people like Augustine. From what I recall there is some speculation that (at most) some of the Gospel authors, especially the one that wrote the Gospel of John, were influenced by Plato, but that's it.

Sun, 19 Aug 2012 23:28:27 UTC | #951060

Go to: Simply ... should I read the bible?

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Comment 24 by Quine :

Yes, I agree with others, above, read it all. Then, read some book about who wrote it and when. Pay special attention to the redaction of the OT at the time of Esra, and all the versions and copy errors and translation errors we have in in the NT. It's a Hell of a story.

I agree, the actual history of how the OT and NT came to be written and collected is quite interesting. An excellent author if you want to read about those things is Bart Ehrman. He was actually trained as a minister but is now an agnostic.

His book Jesus Interrupted is great reading if you want to delve into the many contradictions in the New Testament. But he doesn't just show the contradictions, he presents a compelling explanation why they are there, saying that the various gospel authors had different agendas. Some wanted to convert jews to be Christians so they went out of their way in their gospels to show that Jesus was the Messiah prophesized in the OT. Other authors wanted to convert pagans to Christians so they emphasized demigod aspects from Pagan gods such as divine parentage and virgin birth.

Fri, 17 Aug 2012 13:42:10 UTC | #950946

Go to: Suffering

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If you haven't already read it you should check out Christopher Hitchins book on Mother Theresa: The Missionary Position. He shows how contrary to her well crafted image Mother Theresa's clinics have resulted in many people suffering needlessly and that when patients with cancer or AIDS are denied pain medicine they are told that their suffering brings them closer to Jesus.

Wed, 15 Aug 2012 19:49:43 UTC | #950838

Go to: Simply ... should I read the bible?

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Comment 5 by Tyler Durden :

(I've only read parts of the Qur'an, so, I would have a similar query: should I read the Qur'an?)

I think the Qu'ran is worth a look as well. Especially these days with Islamic fundamentalism and Islamaphobia. I really tried to make it all the way through the Qu'ran but I just couldn't do it. Perhaps because I lacked the proper context but it was just really boring and also the style of the text is IMO very repetitive and boring. There are certain conventions, e.g., you have to say something like "blessings and peace be upon him" every time you mention Mohammed and there is so much text just to essentially repeat things like God is great, God is really great, wow Go God go you totally rock, etc. (in much less interesting prose). I recall a few interesting stories but not enough to hold my interest to the end having to wade through all the repetition.

Wed, 15 Aug 2012 16:33:07 UTC | #950832

Go to: Simply ... should I read the bible?

Red Dog's Avatar Jump to comment 1 by Red Dog

I think at a minimum anyone who wants to be a well rounded educated adult familiar with western literature should read through some of the best known parts of the bible. Things like Genesis, Job, the psalms, and the four gospels. If you care at all about western literature and philosophy you can't completely understand authors such as Nietzsche, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Melville, Dante, and many other without understanding the bible. As for why the bible vs. other religious texts, well I think trying to read the Koran and Lau Tzu's Tau Te Ching are worth the effort as well However, I think it makes sense for a western person to read at least parts of the bible first because, like it or not, the bible was so much more significant in shaping western literature and culture than any other book.

Wed, 15 Aug 2012 13:19:35 UTC | #950817

Go to: Teaching science in public schools without stepping around religion

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Why do you have to bring up God at all when teaching physics?

Sun, 15 Jul 2012 18:21:23 UTC | #949255

Go to: Prayer at a working lunch?

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Comment 58 by xmaseveeve :


I will say that I'm dissappoined Dawkis doesn't spend a little more time replying to the countless comments here that essentially are nothing but hatred of religion.

It's a lack of respect for religion, not for religious people. The heartless posters are just as nasty to atheists! They are equal opportunities misanthropes.

To say "the heartless posters are just as nasty to atheists!" is exactly the kind of comment I find wrong on several levels. For one thing the idea that ALL theists are nasty to atheists is wrong. Period. I can tell you this from my experience. I've had many friends and even lovers who were theists and who knew I was an atheist and they treated me with respect, friendship, and love. If what you mean is that some theists are nasty well of course they are. They are a good example of how religion corrupts thinking and human interaction and they are absolutely NOT the kind of people that we should be emulating.

I agree that a straight couple kissing in public would cause offence to some people, but case law shows that it is gay men who are most likely to be prosecuted, whereas a straight couple would, at worst, be told to get a room!

Sorry, I guess I wasn't clear. I wasn't talking about public displays of affection in general but a specific case of two people who are in a relationship and work together and are in a business lunch with other people they work with. i.e. the same context as this discussion. I like that example because I've actually been there. In that case whether the couple is gay or straight for them to at any point start making out is innappropriate.

I'd say that there's a protocol for business lunches and to pray during one is to embarrass yourself, or at least your fellow diner. I love many religious people, but I find most of these wonderful individuals don't feel the need to advertise it.

I'm confused. In a previous comment you said: "maybe its time to stop feeling sorry for religious people. After all they want to infect us like smiling ravenous zombies." You didn't say "some religious people" or "fundamentalist zealous religious people" you simply said "religous people" which to me sounds like the set of all religous people. I'm confused because when you say "I love many religous people" (I feel the same) that seems inconsistent with saying that all religious people are "smiling ravenous zombies".

Thu, 12 Jul 2012 00:05:14 UTC | #948941

Go to: Prayer at a working lunch?

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Comment 56 by wnap2012 :

You know what, I decided to join this site out of curiosity, just as an intellectual exercise, and I have to say that so far I have been far from impressed from a lot of the posters. You know, its one thing to be athiest, its another thing to bash religion simply because you don't agree with it. I cannot for the world figure out why and how people automatically think that just because they have some sort of scientific education that entitles them to make overarching assumptions and insults about people who practice any religion. In my mind, this is textbook prejudice, because all prejudice starts with a group of people who insist that their view is correct and shun another group simply for their purported views. This goes for both theists and athiests.

I agree absolutely.

This happens to be my problem with Dawkins in general and with the majority of posters on this thread.

I don't agree about Dawkins. For one thing he is in a public position advocating for a position. He is constantly deluged with foolish questions by people who haven't read him and by unfair attacks. And, unlike many of the people on this site, he does a good job of always remaining calm and refraining from personal attacks and cheap jokes and insults.

If you want to convince theists of the merits of science, it is hardly productive and honestly hypocritical to stoop to the same level of immature insults, judgements, and sarcastic humor that a lot of the posters on here have down to an artform.

I'm an atheist by the way but I can't tell you how much I agree with you and how nice it is to see someone say that besides me. If you are wondering why I didn't say something more like what you've said here its because I've done it in the past on several other threads and I get tired of saying the same thing, I know most of the people here are tired of hearing me say it.

Here is my two cents on the business lunch: its obvious that you clearly do not have an open enough mind on this subject that you can't even see another person practice his beliefs. I don't know about you, but I live in a society where I have to deal regularly with people of different religions, cultures, and sexual orientations. I just really find that if you really take that much offence to a colleague praying, its no different from a heterosexual taking offence to seeing two homosexuals kissing. The only thing it indicates is that you have a tolerance problem.

Well, that I disagree with. As I said in an earlier comment, imagine if the tables were turned. If the guy at the business lunch read from The God Delusion and interspersed the talk about business with critiques of religion. I think that would be totally inappropriate.

Or take your example of two gays kissing. Actually, I can give you a real world example. I used to be involved with a woman at work. We kept it private but eventually many people knew. We often had business lunches together with other people from work. Imagine if in the middle of a business lunch we shared a passionate kiss. Gay or straigth that would also be totally innapropriate.

And while I'm at it...let me set this straight. Atheism is not a religion. Atheism's sole purpose is the denial of all religious beliefs and religion in general. Which is precisely why quoting from Dawkin's God Delusion is that much different from quoting from the Bible.

Again I don't completely agree. I don't want to argue about what Atheism in the abstract is because everyone defines it differently. But for ME atheism is part of a philosophy (similar to but not the same as a religion). I can't explain everything that is part of my philosophy in the space here but besides atheism it includes a belief in reason, science, love, morality and art. IMO it meets all the positive aspects that religion used to.

Dawkins may be an intellectual, but in my mind he also has an agenda, which is to promote open hatred of theists.

Again I disagree. You have to differentiate from the people who leave childish comments here and from Dawkins himself. Please quote one specific thing Dawkins has said that indicates he wants to promote hatred of theists. I follow him closely and have never heard such a thing. I think you are making the mistake of assuming that because someone disagrees with theism that means he hates theists. Its odd because unfortunately many, many people who comment here and believe they agree with Dawkins hold the same idea. I will say that I'm dissappoined Dawkis doesn't spend a little more time replying to the countless comments here that essentially are nothing but hatred of religion.

Granted, there are a few reasonable people on here, but they are in the clear minority. And I know the reason why is because the athiests on here think exactly what they accuse theists of - that they're better than everyone else. It really doesn't matter if you're athiest or a theist...there are bigoted people on both sides of the fence. And this place, unless I am mistaken, is simply a place for athiest bigots to congregate just like the theists they love to slam do in churches or mosques. If anyone thinks I am wrong on this point, I'd be happy to hear from you.

One thing that has occurred to me is that its just an unfortunate fact of life that any Internet site with open comments tends to draw out many of the most hateful people and even for decent people encourages them to be hateful.

Anyway, I hope you stick around. We don't agree clearly but that is actually why I want to be here. Not to hear endless lame adolescent jokes about religious people but to hopefully dialog with people that have different ideas than I do.

Wed, 11 Jul 2012 21:23:45 UTC | #948936

Go to: Prayer at a working lunch?

Red Dog's Avatar Jump to comment 51 by Red Dog

Liebore, thanks for sharing the story about your godless invocation and the reaction to it. Very interesting.

Tue, 10 Jul 2012 10:13:15 UTC | #948829

Go to: Prayer at a working lunch?

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Comment 46 by adiroth :

Wow, by your condescending account of Christians, I really doubt you like everybody, xmaseveeve. I have no special feelings for them, but not all of them are barbarians at the gate.

I just want to second that. Not only are they not all barbarians, many of them are very intelligent decent people.

Tue, 10 Jul 2012 10:08:33 UTC | #948828

Go to: Prayer at a working lunch?

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Comment 40 by 1Sokkie :

One of my best friends is a devout Christian. We regularly discuss religion and atheism and often have dinner together. He always takes a few moments for a short prayer before we eat. I just wait in silence until he is finished and then we wish each other a pleasant meal. My silence is a show of respect to my friend. I disagree with his views but I respect the fact that he is entitled to them.

As long as your business associate doesn’t try to convert you I don’t see the problem.

If this were a case of two friends getting together, as you describe, I would agree. I've been an atheist for a very long time but I've had some very devout friends. When I was very sick once one of them did a prayer for me at my sick bed. I didn't think it was going to do me any good of course, but I apprecieated that she wanted to help me and didn't discourage her.

But a business lunch is a different thing. Also, may I ask how carefully did you read the topic? The supplier didn't just say grace, he also injected his Christian views into the discussion several times after saying grace according to Liebore. To me that is approaching an attempt to convert and innapropriate for a business lunch.

None of these issues are black and white. So much depends on the individuals. But as much as I always advocate being respectful to all people (see some of my previous comments here) I also think that atheists have to get used to the idea that its ok for us to be open about what we believe as well.

For example, imagine if the roles were reversed. Imagine if an atheist goes to a business lunch and reads a quote from the God delusion before they eat. Then interjects opinions about how foolish religion is as they are talking about self sealing stembolts or whatever the business is. Can you imagine how most Christians would react?

Mon, 09 Jul 2012 12:16:31 UTC | #948801

Go to: How to overcome indoctrination

Red Dog's Avatar Jump to comment 10 by Red Dog

My advice is to stop thinking of doubt as completely negative. The only way to get rid of doubt is to stop thinking critically, to embrace some dogma. Doubt can be good, it makes you challenge all your beliefs and by constantly re-examining them you make the true ones stronger and you jettison the wrong ones.

Sat, 07 Jul 2012 20:16:15 UTC | #948731

Go to: Infanticide in higher mammals

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Comment 61 by raytoman :


A few million atheists, each worried about just one aspect of 1 religion and willing to spend much of their anti theism effort on arguing about this solitary item.

Anti female is exhibited in multiple ways and these impact half of the population.

Brainwashing Children, killing desenters, making humans waste their lives on nonsense and ruining our planet (since it's unimportant, just a temporary creation to test us whilst we wait for eternity elsewhere) impact most of us.

Religious people only have a few slogans to believe in and a few actions to take to get to paradise /avoid hell and don't need any evidence, they are brainwashed into knowing - blind faith. They are typically unconcerned by all the other shite they are told to believe and don't listen to anything that might contradict their "truth".

We (atheists) divide and conquer ourselves, it appears Richard is wasting his time.

I'm not sure I follow your reasoning. Are you saying you want atheists to be more like religious people? You want us to just have one dogma that we all follow without question? I hope that is not what you are saying but if that's not it then what?

Now how many angels was that last guess? How is this estimate affected by the Higgs Field? Do angels have to wear Burkas or be genitally mutuilated or only wed whomever god says? Do angels even wed. So many questions, so little time.

Again, I don't follow. Are you seriously complaining about scientific articles on this site about the Higgs Boson potential discovery, one of the most significant achievements in the history of physics? Are you really comparing discussions of the Higgs Boson with meaningless theological discussions about angels?

Fri, 06 Jul 2012 23:58:56 UTC | #948707

Go to: Prayer at a working lunch?

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Comment 10 by HardNosedSkeptic :

Comment 8 by Red Dog :

You don't need to be Sigmund Freud to understand that someone doesn't want to mess up their work environment by introducing an un-necessary conflict. And when confronted with a surprising and uncomfortable situation, staying silent and thinking through what if anything to say is a very rational response.

Yes, exactly.

I think we all know how annoying open displays of religiosity like that can be, especially in the workplace. But before you respond LIEBORE, you need to think carefully about the wider implications of your actions. I think it was PZ Myers who said: “never underestimate how sensitive religious people can be”?

To illustrate this, here is a little “religion in the workplace” story of my own. I work for a UK company that does a lot of business in South Africa (which is a much more religious country than the UK). Many of the emails I see coming from South Africa have footers containing religious messages; things like “Trust in the Lord and You Shall Want for Nothing”, and other such nonsense. One day, I was dealing with an email which ended with the following:

Seven days without prayer makes one weak.

I was completely fed up with seeing perfectly good bandwidth wasted like this, so before I sent the email on, I decided to “improve it”, and so I changed the footer to:

Seven days with prayer makes one weak-minded.

I thought (silly me) that this was just a bit of harmless fun, but you can guess what happened next. The original sender found out somehow, and he complained about how his email had been “vandalised” and how he had “felt personally violated by this” (I know, groan).

I ended up being told off, and forbidden from doing anything like that again, which could have been much worse I suppose. You LIEBORE, of course, risk far more than that where you live. Rising to religious stupidity might make you feel better at the time, but it can come back to haunt you, so I hope that you will be very careful.

Why did you take such an indirect and disrespectful approach? You could have gone to your boss or contacted the person directly and told them you were uncomfortable with the footer.

If your default response to thests is to just ridicule them then yes, nothing good will come of it for sure, in the workplace or elsewhere. You certainly won't change anyone's mind and you will just reinforce the incorrect stereotype that atheists can't tolerate people with views contrary to their own.

I've always been honest in my work place about my atheism and as far as I know it never caused a problem. Part of the reason is that I work in Information Technology where people tend to be more educated and open minded. But I think another reason is that I always try to treat people with respect, even when I disagree with them.

Thu, 05 Jul 2012 21:33:28 UTC | #948659

Go to: Infanticide in higher mammals

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Comment 51 by xmaseveeve :

Comment 49, Red Dog,

Well said. Say hello to your great daughter.

Thanks :)

Thu, 05 Jul 2012 18:59:21 UTC | #948639

Go to: Infanticide in higher mammals

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Comment 53 by LaurieB :

you said: (I'm afraid to try blockquote because I screwed it up so bad on previous thread)

FYI block quoting is really easy in this, the old system. What I do is hit the quote icon (") at the end of each comment and then start editing from there, inserting or deleting parts of the original message as appropriate. Its in the new Disqus system where its a pain because you have to enter HTML tags and even though I was at one time a pretty good (ok, totally awesome) programmer, even I hate doing manual HTML. Sorry for the digression, in any case simply quoting is totally fine.

" I do agree that there is a lot of conditioning from the paternalistic, sexist Abrahemic religions but I think at least part of the reasons for such conditioning is that we are wired by evolution to want to nurture our children, and the evolutionary pressure is even higher for women then men."

I don't quite get this. If you are saying that we are wired by evolution to want to nurture our children.. I have no argument with that but are you saying that religions have just jumped on that bandwagon and serve to reinforce what's already there? We don't need it. They use the glorified, purified, sanctified motherhood thing to make us feel bad when we have different ideas about our relationships and how we want them to proceed.

I can understand why this was confusing. I kind of went off on a tangent from the original topic. What I was trying to say is if we look at religion from the standpoint of an anthropologist or an evolutionary biologist it seems odd. All primitive cultures that we know of seem to have had some type of religion. And from an evolutionary standpoint primitive religions took up a lot of precious resources (time, sacrifices) with no apparent tangible return. This is the question Daniel Dennet started to answer in his book Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. One of the hypotheses is that religion provided group cohesion and helped to establish basic ethical norms.

If you've ever taken a class in game theory you quickly come across non-zero sum games (the classic is the prisoner's dilma) where you say "if the players can communicate or have some mechanism to enforce sticking to an agreement then they can both do better, but since they can't they are doomed to both make the sub-optimal response. The hypothesis is that religion may have provided that something that helped people start colaborating in ways that benefited the whole group. In addition to Dennet Robert Wright wrote a book with this hypothesis called "Non Zero".

If that hypothesis is true then it also stands to reason that the starting point for a religion would be to codify things that we were already predisposed to do by our genes. So providing dogmas that reinforced things like women having the role of bearing and raising children. Just because we have a genetic predisposition to do these things does not mean that moral systems we invent wouldn't reinforce them. To say "there was no need" for religion because we already had a genetic predisposition to do what religion told us to assumes that religions were developed rationally and with some understanding of our genetic predispositions, neither of which I think are true. Religions evolved organically based on human fears and desires. Those fears and desires are highly influenced by our genetic predispositions.

I realize this is a lot of speculation, IMO the whole question of what the naturalistic explanation for religion is is extremely interesting and not at all well understood by anyone yet.

BTW, I also realize at first it might seem I'm doing what I thought you were doing earlier, confusing genetic predisposition with ethics but I don't think I am. Just because religion may have gone in a certain direction does not mean that that direction was the right one. In fact I think it clearly wasn't. Women have value for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with raising children.

"Because as humans we can rise above (or in some cases fall below) the direction our genes push us. We are capable of over riding our genetic programming to make decisions for ourselves."

Of course this is true! I override my evolutionary imperatives every day and so don't most of us! Just because I talk about how things must have been, that doesn't mean it's all fine and dandy in the here and now! Jeezis! I'm surprised I even have to explain it on THIS website!

I hope you will read more on this and come back for more discussion. It's not an easy subject, as I said previously, and it takes some getting used to. Again, I doubt if we even disagree about anything, just that you're missing some information. Naturally, those authors mentioned above have a talent for explaining these concepts that I lack. :-)

I will definitely check them out. Thanks :)

Thu, 05 Jul 2012 18:54:44 UTC | #948638

Go to: Infanticide in higher mammals

Red Dog's Avatar Jump to comment 49 by Red Dog

Comment 46 by LaurieB :

Red Dog

It's not a typo. I mean to say infanticide by human females. I get it that this doesn't make sense. It never made sense to me either. In fact, I used to hold near and dear the idea that motherly love was unconditional and the strongest instinct that functioned in my brain. Then I started reading evo bio/psych and everything changed. Now I think I was programed to believe in unconditional motherly love by the whole Virgin Mary worshipping damn church. That's not how women tick.

I disagree. I do agree that there is a lot of conditioning from the paternalistic, sexist Abrahemic religions but I think at least part of the reasons for such conditioning is that we are wired by evolution to want to nurture our children, and the evolutionary pressure is even higher for women then men. I've been reading a fair amount of works latlely on the ovrlap between behavior and evolution, things by Trivers, Pinker, and others and everything I've seen shows that there is most definitely a very strong instinct by mothers to want to protect their young at all costs. I can't recall hearing any examples where a primate mother does the equivalent of a bird and pushes a baby "out of the nest". I notice you referenced some work that seems to indicate that, I'll check it out.

Now please don't think that what I said above means that I think the "role for a human woman" has to be involved with child bearing and raising. I'm very much a feminist and I raised a daughter who is an even more radical, beauty pagent barbie despising feminist than I am and I'm very proud of her. There was a time when I would have been to PC to write the paragraph above but I read Steven Pinker's book The Blank Slate and he did an excellent job IMO of clarifying the difference between saying "our genes wire us to do X" and "X is moral or right" The first statement in no way implies the second.

What started the whole big question for me was with birds. I think I always knew that mother birds sometimes booted a baby bird out of the nest for whatever reason. I think the explanation was that it was a runt and it was just merciful that she made short work of it.

Sorry but no. Being "merciful" has nothing to do with it. There is no mercy in evolution there are just selfish genes.

Better for it's siblings that it was one less mouth to feed. Still, it never sat well with me. I thought, so what if it's runty? It will probably be able to reproduce at some later date anyway and there you have it, the genes have moved forward into the next generation. What's not to like? So this question of infanticide in birds never did have any satisfactory answer for me

You are making the mistake of confusing a scientific naturalistic principle with an ethical one. The reason a mother kicks a runt baby out of the nest has nothing to do with being merciful. Its simply a matter of mathematics. You could model it and you would find that 4 strong babies have a much better chance to produce 4 adults that reproduce than 4 strong babies and one runt.

but I thought the ways of birds have nothing to do with us human females. We love our babies unconditionally and this is a superior trait that we have! sigh...:-(

Again, I think its a mistake to compare humans and birds. Birds don't have language (in the sense that humans do) and aren't conscience. For humans it makes sense to talk in terms of morality not for birds.

A few years ago while reading on reproductive strategies of monkeys and apes I came across the fact that new males come marauding in and kill all the babies that are not theirs and bring the females into fertility. Ok, again I thought, wow, we're different and civilized. Then I saw the stats on stepfather violence and had something of a comeuppance. The next bunch of books I read were by Sarah Hrdy, who I mentioned above. Her books, Mother Nature and Mothers and Others are a detailed analysis of the reproductive strategies of female primates, including human females and these books destroyed any pie in the sky idealism that I had left in me concerning me and my fellow females. I strongly recommend anyone reading these books for a clear picture of this subject. The infanticide that we engage in (though out our evolutionary past) has not been the dastardly shit that Premiseless talks about above. It takes the form of abandonment in the hours after birth. Of course this was infanticide. The statistics on newborn abandonment in Europe are shocking and this took place until relatively recently. What about the fact that European mothers placed newborns out to wet nurses as a regular practice and probably knew that most of those babies never came back alive. There were orphanages with little revolving doors in the wall to accept abandoned babies anonymously. There are many examples of baby abandonment, especially with hunter gatherers and right up to modern times that are nothing less than infanticide. Abandonment = infanticide. Our modern day version is of course, abortion. It is the abandonment of a (future) child. In times past I will assume that abortion was medically way too risky to the life of the mother and not an option. Even with high labor and delivery mortality rates in the past, she would have been safer to see the pregnancy through to term and abandon it at that point.

Why would she do it? Spacing of offspring is of crucial concern to women.

Because as humans we can rise above (or in some cases fall below) the direction our genes push us. We are capable of over riding our genetic programming to make decisions for ourselves.

Thu, 05 Jul 2012 17:25:06 UTC | #948626

Go to: Prayer at a working lunch?

Red Dog's Avatar Jump to comment 5 by Red Dog

It might be possible to ask him not to discuss issues of faith without outing yourself as an atheist. Some companies, especially larger ones, have HR guidelines that discourage or prohibit trying to convert people or do things like say public prayers at work. I know that's not exactly relevant here though since he is a potential supplier, although since he wants to sell to you, you have the leverage I would think. Have you checked with your HR people about what if any policies they have about this? That could provide an easy out:

"I'm sorry Mr. Christain but our company thinks faith is a private matter and its against our policy to discuss religion in a business meeting"

If the HR people provide no help I think I would say something similar:

"I appreciate that your faith is important to you Mr. Christian my spiritual life is important to me as well but its so important I like to keep that part of my life private and not mix it with business."

Saying it like that gets around admitting to be an atheist but I personally would be comfortable with those words as true for me, and I've been an atheist since I was 12. Richard had an interesting dicussion a while back on how atheists should re-claim the word "spiritual" and I agree, not in the sense of supernatural but in the sense of a feeling of wonder and awe at the beauty of the natural world and of things like art and music.

Thu, 05 Jul 2012 16:52:03 UTC | #948622

Go to: Infanticide in higher mammals

Red Dog's Avatar Jump to comment 45 by Red Dog

Comment 42 by raytoman :

Comment 33 by LaurieB


"Is it possible to reach a point where pathological behavior such as this, is ousted from human behavior?"

If we can't accept that infanticide by females is normal and common throughout the population and well established in our evolutionary past

Was that a typo, did you mean infanticide by males? Because I'm not aware of infanticide by females being common and normal for humans or any other animal. Males killing the children of potential or actual mates that were sired by other males makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint. Females killing their own children doesn't. The only exception I can think of where that would make evolutionary sense would be if the child is the runt of the litter, resources are scarce and the mother has to choose which ones have the best chance of survival and might abandon or even kill off the ones that don't. Otherwise for a female to kill her own children is the most illogical act from the standpoint of evolution that we can imagine.

Thu, 05 Jul 2012 14:14:40 UTC | #948603

Go to: Infanticide in higher mammals

Red Dog's Avatar Jump to comment 40 by Red Dog

Vrij, have you seen the film Project Nim? It documents what happened with Nim Chimpsky, one of the chimps that researchers taught sign language to. It's exactly as you describe, Nim is adorable as an infant but as he grows to adulthood gradually becomes a potential terror. It's also an example of appallingly bad science. The researchers have no primatologists on the team and no one who knew sign language before starting the project. The lead researcher is more interested in sex with his female grad students and getting his name in the news than doing rigorous work. It's a sad story but very interesting.

Thu, 05 Jul 2012 00:25:27 UTC | #948585

Go to: Religious Doctor Denies Medicine for HIV Positive Gay Man

Red Dog's Avatar Jump to comment 36 by Red Dog

Comment 29 by xmaseveeve :

Red Dog,

This has hardly been reported. David Ike's website discusses it! as does 'Unexplained mysteries'. There's nothing mysterious about it. The BBC, apparently doesn't have time for 'human interest' stories, especially not on a quiet news day, of which there have been few, of late. I heard about this case on the local London news station, LBC. ....

As for the police - no, I wouldn't say they were criminally responsible, but I agree with Vrij that the police should learn from this, and not take the word of a person against whom an allegation has been made, even when the person is a nurse (or a sadistic nun, paedophile priest, or Dr. Shipman). The police could have saved this boy's life.

Hindsight is always 20/20. What specifically do you think the cops didn't do that they should have? I don't think you are saying, at least I hope not, that the cops should have just taken the word of the patient over the doctors and nurses. Its not their job to interfere in the way a hospital is run and if they did so they would be opening themselves up to all sorts of potential lawsuits. In a more perfect world, they should have followed up with someone at police HQ who could have contacted someone with medical knowledge to take a look but in the real world the cops are another group that is overworked and underpayed and they just don't have time to follow up with that amount of dilligence on cases like this.

Wed, 04 Jul 2012 20:53:16 UTC | #948579

Go to: Religious Doctor Denies Medicine for HIV Positive Gay Man

Red Dog's Avatar Jump to comment 28 by Red Dog

Comment 26 by Ignorant Amos :

Dehydrated patient Kane Gorny died after calling 999 for water

Thanks. Definitely real and definitely an example of inexcusable incompetence.

Wed, 04 Jul 2012 17:34:00 UTC | #948563

Go to: Religious Doctor Denies Medicine for HIV Positive Gay Man

Red Dog's Avatar Jump to comment 25 by Red Dog

Comment 23 by VrijVlinder :

@Comment 19 by xmaseveeve : a young man phoned 999 on his mobile phone, from his hospital bed, and said he was dying of thirst and the nurses would not listen to him. The police went to the hospital but were assured by a nurse that the patient was simply confused. An hour and a half later, he died from dehydration.

Link? This sounds like it could be one of those urban legend stories. A reference would be nice.

In this case the police have demonstrated undeserved respect for Nurses. If they had been nuns the same would have happened.

Assuming the story is true, at least from what was described, I don't see how the police could have done anything different. Do you really expect them to over-ride the medical authority of a trained professional who is familiar with the case? In 99% of the cases (and cops get nuisance calls like this from people fairly regularly) to do so would have been terrible and probably endangered the patient, its just that in this unique case (assuming it actually happened) the nurses were negligent.

The police could never imagine a nurse or nun to be neglectful. And even less a doctor.

Maybe in the past nurses and doctors took their job seriously. But it is no longer that way. A patient has to have patient advocates or they do not get the care they deserve.

That is a pretty sweeping generalization and not at all consistent with my experience. In fact I had a somewhat similar experience with my MS meds recently. I get an injection once a week. I'm travelling and for insurance reasons it looked like it was going to cost me thousands of dollars for a few injections. Then even when I acquired the medicine, getting the injections was a problem. Some patients can inject themselves but I can't do it. I tried various approaches to just find a doctor's office that would let me bring in the injections and have a nurse inject me. I tried the doctor of the person I'm staying with first. Then I tried other doctors. None of them would do it and none of them seemed to give a shit about my problem. Then I put a posting on Craig's list for a nurse. The response was overwhelming, everyone wanted to help and the two nurses that I corresponded with in detail both refused payment.

I've also had other experiences with the healthcare industry, both working in a psych hospital (granted that was a long time ago) and various nightmares associated with insurance companies screwing me out of payment for things like MRI's.

Nurses have almost always been overwhelmingly compasionat, capable people. There are bad people in any profession of course but to say that nurses don't take their job seriously for all nurses is not true at all in my experience.

People are fallible no matter what they are and do not deserve, undeserved respect just because of their profession, religion, gender.

Profession is different than religion or gender. You don't have to work to become a man or a Christian. I have respect for a nurse or a teacher. Its not based on any irrational faith its based on my experience that in general they tend to be dedicated overworked underpaid people. Which is not to say I take everything that a nurse or anyone says as beyond challenge.

Wed, 04 Jul 2012 16:51:16 UTC | #948560

Go to: Infanticide in higher mammals

Red Dog's Avatar Jump to comment 34 by Red Dog

Comment 32 by ccw95005 :

Oh, I think the human animal is spectacular. The ability to invent the iPhone, and aeroplanes, and ice cream - amazing! We are the most interesting creatures that have ever appeared on this planet... To be honest, I often despair here in America about the level of intelligence among the voting public, and the greed and lack of concern for others among so many. It's depressing. However, get real. We are an absolutely amazing, mind-blowing species. Our movies, our literature, our music - a lot of fabulous stuff. We haven't been perfect stewards of our planet, but what species has? I think there's something in our psyches that tell us that because we're not perfect, we're the worst example of mistaken Darwinism ever! But the things our greatest people have accomplished? Unbelievably wonderful.

I agree. I often see people comment here about how small and insignificant humans are. There was even a video a few weeks back of atheists talking about their views of meaning and value without God and someone went on at length about how deluded many humans are thinking we are important since we are such a very small part of a very big universe. To me size doesn't matter. The fact that in such a huge universe life evolved and then life evolved to be conscious of itself is an amazing and important thing, regardless of whether there is a God or not. In fact I think you could make the case that humans are more important without God. With God you hand off some of the most important questions about good and evil, beauty, purpose for life, etc. It all comes down to "God's will". Without God its up to each human to decide those things for themselves.

BTW, I would quibble a bit with the phrase "mistaken Darwinism ever" Perhaps I'm parsing your words too carefully but IMO it makes no more sense to talk of a mistake in Darwinism then a mistake in physics. When two bodies collide in space its not a Newtonian mistake. When species go extinct its not a Darwinian mistake, Darwinism is just the theory that explains why its happening.

Wed, 04 Jul 2012 10:52:40 UTC | #948552

Go to: Religious Doctor Denies Medicine for HIV Positive Gay Man

Red Dog's Avatar Jump to comment 6 by Red Dog


Mon, 02 Jul 2012 02:27:19 UTC | #948426

Go to: Infanticide in higher mammals

Red Dog's Avatar Jump to comment 10 by Red Dog

Comment 1 by VrijVlinder :

Yes I have also found that aspect difficult to accept. Why kill progeny at all ? The most simple reason can be that the genetics of the new male are superior to the one displaced.

No. Animals have no notion of whose genes are "superior" to anothers. Its not even clear how you would measure that. Is a gene for enhanced intelligence "superior"? Probably, but what if it also requires the animal to eat twice as much to feed the enhanced brain or what if (to bring it down to human terms) it makes the male such a nerd that its much harder for him to find a female to procreate with? From the standpoint of evolution killing progeny that are not your kin in order to give your kin or potential kin a better chance of surviving and procreating makes perfect sense. There is nothing controversial or hard to understand, its all a matter of selfish genes.

Mon, 02 Jul 2012 02:06:21 UTC | #948423

Go to: Infanticide in higher mammals

Red Dog's Avatar Jump to comment 8 by Red Dog

I can see where a selfish gene would cause such behavior but it is also very much anti life and anti survival of the species.

You need to read or re-read The Selfish Gene because you haven't grasped the essential concept of the book. There is no such thing as survival of the species much less valueing life for the sake of life, its all a matter of genes which are carried by inividuals. If anything its surprising that there aren't more examples of infanticide. My guess is that the reason there aren't is the risk of false negatives, thinking that a child is not your kin and killing it by mistake as a result is the worst mistake you can make from the standpoint of evolution.

Are the selfish gene and survival of the species working at cross purposes here?

No, because there is no such thing as survival of the species, except possibly for some lower life forms such as ants and bees, see the recent discussion on group selection.

Perhaps I'm wrong but I also sense you may be commitning the naturalistic moral fallacy with your statements about "testosterone soaked males... fill their wild oats" Yes, its offensive to our human morality, that is why Dawkins, Harris, and most people who understand evolution are clear that it is in no way a basis for human morality. By the standpoint of evolution rape is totally logical for males. That is one of many reasons we don't look to evolution for a definition of human morality.

Mon, 02 Jul 2012 01:48:31 UTC | #948421