Thursday, December 29, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I was watching a debate which made me think of ad hominems

I loathe ad-hominems because they do not advance discussions or debates. They do not address the claims made but instead serve to detract the conversation to paltry details that have no bearing upon whether or not the claims presented are true.

Whether someone has a beard or not, is or is not obese, is or is not wearing makeup, is or is not physically disabled, is or is not heterosexual (the list goes on ad infinitum) has no place in an intellectual discussion.

Obviously, there will be a variety of opinions regarding someone’s style of presentation (or any other aspect of their person), but opinions shouldn’t enter a debate or intellectual discussion. Many fall prey to this because it is always easier to insert an opinion about one’s opponent than to counter a claim, or, conversely, to offer more information about that claim and why the claim being made is true.

Facts and claims to reality should be the issues discussed because there will be a true or false answer regarding a factual claim. A case can be built up to support a claim to reality. A case cannot be erected to show that the color yellow is the best color or that blouses of a certain color, style or cut are superior to another type of blouse. These are merely preferences determined by one’s subjective sensory experience. Each person will have a different answer so we end up wasting our time when the conversation derails down the “ad hom” path.

I cannot tell you the degree of tedium I experience when I witness people making ad homs throughout their feigned “intellectual responses” to other people’s claims. If you are offering an opinion about a person and are not responding to a claim that is made, you are not advancing the discussion, you are not contributing, you are stifling the discussion.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

love this!! Anonymity is the key here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Wow, I can't believe I have 3 followers on my blog :) Never thought I'd see the day. Thank you so much!!

I just got a 2nd job and I am very excited about it. :D I'm going to be busier than ever before. An hour commute doesn't sound like fun; but hey, can't complain since my bf works in the same city and we can ride carpool and avoid traffic. I'm also busy applying to nursing schools and had to take a big 3 hour test this morning before work. I have to pass this test if I want to even apply to a particular nursing program (don't know the results yet). UW BSN program is the TOP nursing program in the United States. I will definitely apply there too but not expecting to get in as competition is insane and the cost to attend is exorbitant.

I'm sorry if I haven't responded to anyone's message on youtube. I'm not ignoring you and my busyness isn't an excuse. I hope to make a video soon again.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Do you use flawed reasoning? This site
mentions some fallacies in our thinking...

Do you....

"Base the credibility of an argument on its manner of presentation?"

"Give preferential treatment to those perceived to be group members?"

"See patterns where none exist?"

"Underestimate the time/effort to complete a difficult task?"

These are just a few of the many examples.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Unsolicited Advice

I love this short article on unsolicited advice. The quote I particularly agree with is:

"3 — The giver of unsolicited advice often makes the erroneous assumption that the receiver has goofed because of lack of knowledge.

What the giver does not realize is that the receiver either (a) does not agree with the giver’s opinion or (b) has made the error because of lack of time — or because fixing it is not a priority."

I've noticed a very common tendency among humans to dole out unsolicited advice. This behavior amuses me whenever I see it...simply for the reasons outlined in the above blog article.

Monday, September 26, 2011


The best thing about learning is that it occupies your mind and your time in a simultaneously pleasant and beneficial way. Learning has the unique ability to satiate and then offer more. There are few activities that can serve as both entertainment and as improvement to your person. If you expand the horizons of your thinking you increase your choices. Possibilities that were once hidden become slowly revealed and more easily accessible. Thought can be more easily summed together offering a result that is useful. As you develop your person, you want to be able to expand your thought boundaries.---Renee

Evolution is counterintuitive

Who would have thought that life would originate at the bottom and then aggregate in complexity upward as time went by? There is this very common form of thinking that so many of us have that things are ordered from the top down. Our understanding of evolution takes this kind of simple, common-sensical thinking and flips it. Common sense is not a very reliable guide in science. Common sense, for instance, doesn't bring us to this notion that on a quantum level, there is this exorbitant amount of open space in a dense object such as lead. We have a very limited threshold of perception and we make comparisons. We filter everything through our constrained threshold.

I find evolution to be a thrilling idea. There is this grand unification, this beautiful nexus between all DNA expressions.

Friday, September 9, 2011

My Dad's AWESOME photography!

My Father is an avid backpacker and hikes to many remote lakes in the Northwest. He has hiked the Cascades (Mt. Rainier) the Olympics, The Enchantments and of course, the ever lovely Eagle Cap Wilderness in Eastern Oregon near Joseph. Here are some beautiful pics of his more recent adventures. He owns a very cheap camera as he is a complete tightwad but he still manages to take amazing photos. He is so talented.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Reality loops

If anything, it is a splendid thought, that through countless epochs of time, generation after generation after generation; from time past to time present, we are finally here! We have arrived. The universe gave birth to mind; for through us, it can better know itself. We are sentient and able to take part in this glorious universe and experience it like no other life-form has ever been able to.

Our journey to the present has been treacherous one, filled with significant and subtle twists and turns, death and survival and triumph. We have defied the insurmountable odds of us being here at all—and this is what makes our current existence so precious, so incredibly exhilarating to the senses…when you understand this journey.

You rewind time further, back to the supernovae, to where the organic compounds of all life-forms have their emergence. Further still, to the beginning of the universe, and ultimately to that supremely dense, primeval seed from which our universe unfurled. Our value is inescapable if we measure the probability of us being here vs. the odds.

I find this view to be far more replete with splendor and glory than your garden variety supernatural view. I find ideologies that mark upon the young, formative brain “you’re worthless, wretched and sinful” to be the bad ones because they teach a hatred of self that radiates outward and infects others.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Learning to Sew!

Here are a few of my amateur sewing creations over the past year. I have fumbled around with my machine and consider my attempts decent considering I don't use patterns and just "look at clothes in my closet". I never took a domestic class in high school, didn't attend 4-H and my Mother didn't teach me how to sew. The internet offers a surfeit of ideas and helpful tips. Anyone can learn how to sew. I plan to attempt more challenging projects this coming Fall.

Apron I made while looking at another one! The pocket is so cute and fun!!

This little mini-skirt was a bit more challenging. There is a zipper in the back and it had to fit just perfectly. It does! I wear it all the time! I made a kitchen apron out of the remaining material.

Cute little coin purse with Velcro closure.

Quilted coin purse with zipper closure.

Lemon and Orange Slice placemats! Adorable!

Chair cushion with piping border :)

Baby changing pad and baby burp cloths with terry cloth interior, cute firework pattern for baby boy. I once would sell these on ebay as they are extremely simple to sew.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Morals in a purely material world?

Everything in your existence is your subjective experience of the world as it is interpreted by the inner-workings of your own brain. You are an individual. You have your own brain, inside your head which is not attached to any other brain. Thus far, there are no scientific studies indicating a mental connection between your body—your existence—and any other body or brain in the world. Although there may be similar physical, genetic and environmental similarities between humans, your brain and its physiology, is ultimately what endows you with a unique consciousness.

Everything you think is a mixture of the world around you as it interacts with the functions of your own brain. You cannot help but think of yourself most of time, because you are yourself. While we are surely reminded of our underlying selfishness and how it seems to muddy our human nature, it isn’t a grand leap to infer how it might have once acted as a vestigial survival mechanism for the individual and their subsequent progeny.

Perhaps a selfish nature helped out the survival of our ancestors during more inclement times of human history. Even though we try and delude ourselves into believing that we care more about others more than ourselves, but giving just a brief reflection upon our daily actions with an honest evaluation, we just cannot believe it. While it is true that a selfish disposition applied without discretion will certainly hinder our social influence, it does not follow that thinking and acting in ways that foster and promote the survival of the self are objectively immoral.

Can people be moral without religion? I believe people can acquire a consistent, socially tethered morality independent of their philosophical or religious stance. An individual’s moral stance seems to be influenced by how they were raised and the values the person incorporated into their life--those values which are a reflection of social dynamics. Morality is an anthropological phenomenon that is culturally transmissible. We learn “how to act” first, from our dealings with our family in early life, and as we get older, with society, at large.

As I learn more about neuroscience, it seems that the tendency to exhibit moral or immoral behavior is also a component of human genetics, a consequence of cerebral architecture and cognition. That is to say that there is evidence to support the idea that brain health, structure, and functioning, correspond to one’s outward behaviors and attitudes which in turn relates to how they behave socially.

Humans can be moral without religion and humans can be immoral with religion. This shows that morals operate independent of religious dictates and they arise independently of these as well. We often hear that moral formation is associated with religion, and while all religions do offer a few generally agreed-upon codes of conduct, they certainly do not offer a comprehensive view of morality in all its’ complex and nuanced forms. Religious texts offer few, if any answers that deal with the complicated nature of most moral situations faced by modern society. Germane, sufficient answers regarding the best actions to be taken for betterment of society can rarely, if ever, be prescribed by the use of ancient texts. For centuries, it seems, the Bible has been used on both sides of many moral debates, indicating its general lack of perspicuity. Thus, it is human beings, who, over subsequent generations through the process of trial and error--by learning more and more about the world around them--that a more complex understanding of morality was developed.

Over the millennia our species has noted both the direct and indirect consequences of human behavior. Also, as we gather more information and learn more about ourselves and other conscious creatures, we continually adjust the moral code. It is this trial and error process—deleting, adding, tweaking—the tentative moral code, that falsifies the idea that morals have a singular, objective truth source, apart from humans, themselves.

As a society, we have to make adaptations in response to societal change. Furthermore, because the past has not dealt with the novelties of technology and extensive information sharing, we must formulate new approaches for the best—and in this context, most moral—way of incorporating these into society.

What is moral then? Morality, from a very rough glimpse, is behaviors, actions and reactions that promote cooperation. Actions that do not promote cooperation or impede long-term or short-term cooperation between individuals are usually considered immoral. It seems rational to suggest that humans who cooperate readily with others will be more able to survive and thrive better in society. “When we put others first“, even if we do it in the name of our preferred religion, we unwittingly participate in group cooperation, which may be reciprocated back to us. People seem to cement good associations and thus good memories, and therefore good future actions to those who have been kind to them.

Ultimately, there are no definite absolutes of morality within the human species. Now hold on! This doesn’t by any means relegate morality to purely subjective and relativistic operation! The reason we say moral absolutism isn’t tenable is simply because human beings are not omniscient. We do not possess complete knowledge, of, for instance, the nervous systems of all creatures. We don’t always know the best course of action to take in any given situation. More likely, we have pliable absolutes that evolve and develop with the progression of society and its trial and error experiences with human behavior.

The Bible most assuredly hasn’t remained a static, objective moral source throughout history. Its interpretation(s) by human beings have adapted with the progression of society. Thus, when religionists foist their holy books as evidence of an “absolute, objective truth and moral standard“, you will notice that these “morals” are always reinterpreted to mesh with the culture that they are applied to. This proves that even “Biblical morality” is not static and changes as culture changes and humans progress and learn.

In today’s society, slavery is considered more or less “absolutely immoral”. Whether you want to split hairs and say that there have been all forms of slavery executed throughout history and that different cultures had different ways of treating their slaves, for the most part, the most powerful and advanced civilizations have come to the conclusion that owning or possessing another human being, is objectionable to social mores and the moral conscience of human beings.

In Biblical times, slavery was a part of life. The beating of slaves was condoned, provided the beating didn’t result in death (Exodus 21:20-21; RSV). Slaves were fully exploited by their masters as utilitarian tools. How is this form of slavery significantly morally superior than the slavery of African Africans by whites in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries? Additionally, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America declared, “[Slavery] was established by decree of Almighty is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts."

In regards to the Bible as a source of complete moral standards, I’ve heard atheists raise this probative question to theists, “Where in the Bible do you get your absolute moral truth claim to determine that slavery is wrong?” Of course, the Bible offers little if any thorough dialogue about the immorality of slavery or reasoning of God’s objection to it. By contrast, Yahweh of the Old Testament appears to condone slavery. It is only in modern times, even in these past few centuries, that civilization has determined—without the help of a so-called moral code of conduct (i.e. the Bible or the Koran) but by societal conscience and convention and its reflections of past atrocities associated with slavery that, slavery was accepted to be an immoral atrocity. Therefore, morality seems to be just as much subject to evolution as physical life forms are. As society learns more it seems to place greater emphasis on individual freedoms—human rights.

Many protestant Christians forget that their original founders (e.g. Martin Luther, John Calvin) believed that the use of birth control was immoral, according to their biblical interpretation. In the latter half of the 20th century, most Protestant Christians had abandoned this teaching, favoring a more secular view of birth control and its various methods. Again, this is another example of a moral idea, derived from scripture that has drastically changed as society—and the Christian community along with it—has progressed, favoring social conventions.
The Bible offers very few if any major moral standards that human beings couldn’t come up with on their own--simply by living in a social setting. In the Ten Commandments, Moses learned (do you think for the first time?) that killing was immoral, but oddly, coveting one’s neighbor was on that same list of horrible crimes. Rape, possession of other human beings, and child abduction don’t even make it on the list. This list seems extremely arbitrary and more likely reflected the specific societal circumstances of that particular culture. I’m sure it made sense from Moses’ cultural perspective; killing and coveting were obviously rampant.

Ironically, the Bible never says anything specific about abortion but it does however give specific orders about witches (Deuteronomy 22:18, “Thou shall not suffer a witch to live.” Thus, Christianity proves that it has sustained itself by veering from the Biblical text in various occasions, to what serves the current population at the time.

It is not from a book where civilization derives specific moral codes. It is from society’s progression and interaction with various human behaviors that lead(s) humans to this awareness.
A useful and pertinent moral code must be dynamic and evolve in conjunction with the expansion of human knowledge and experience. As human beings become more aware and intellectually and technically equipped, ethics will become more complicated as we determine the most cooperative, socially productive way of addressing situations relating to morality. Additionally, as we learn more about the nature of free will and whether it is an intrinsic property of the brain (or doesn‘t exist after all), we will further adapt societal decisions regarding human behavior.

From a practical perspective, it only makes sense to respond to others in a fashion that we would want them to respond to us. When I am kind and compassionate to an individual who’s in pain—instead of laughing at them or causing them more pain—it is a far more socially productive response to both that individual as well as to myself. Better yet, my reputation is further bolstered. Therefore it is ungrounded to say that “God/The Bible is where all of humanity derives the un-shifting moral code.”

Ignorance, lack of foresight and an unwillingness for challenge or temporary discomfort are perhaps the greatest contributors to sociopathic and maladaptive, “sinful” behaviors. The majority of people who commit such crimes haven’t thought thoroughly about the consequences of their behavior or they are mentally unable to do so.

Living in a social setting demands a set of prescriptions—a code of conventions—for all participants who want to experience a harmonious and progressive society. Society would simply perish if such conventions were not achieved.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Prayer, and why even an atheist believes it can work (in certain circumstances)

Do healthy, well-to-do people actually think that they have a special conduit to the divine, while others, writhing through the immeasurably painful vicissitudes of life, have access to the same divine source? Why the disparity in circumstances if so many are praying to the same divine being? The answer is simple, there is no divine being, and the quality of a person’s life is primarily tied to the circumstances of the family they were born into—this includes location of birth, socioeconomic status and genetics.

When you think about it, prayer is a very irrational tool often wielded by theists. It is a theist’s secret weapon. When circumstances are out of their control, they have an almost desperate tendency to use it. Using it in the solace of one’s room isn’t always enough though, for most theists they need to announce to their unbelieving friend, “I’ll be praying for you”. It provides them with an important illusion, that at least they have a mite of control—at least they are doing something.

Ever noticed how anything that could end up working out on its own—without the use of prayer—is often used to validate prayer when it is applied and appears to work? However, there are almost never any examples of prayers that have been answered for cases that could never work out on their own. When someone looses a limb, for example, you never hear any cases where prayer effectively grew back the person’s amputated limb. You rarely, if ever hear about prayer healing specific types of known, killer cancers such as pancreatic cancer—when its’ in its’ latter stages.
How often do paraplegics who have been in such state for several years, finally get their prayers to walk again answered? The simple answer is, never. This is because most of these are situations that even nature cannot reverse. Some cancers are known to have an extremely finite level of reversibility—a statistically small percentage of being overtaken by healthy tissue, which suffocates and reduces the size of the cancerous tissue. Science has already determined the prospects of the statistical reversibility for various types of cancer.

With all cancers, there are various degrees of reversibility depending on the cancer and its impact on specific body organs and its progression to other body tissues. Certain cancers will have a greater probability of diminishing on their own. If prayer actually worked, we would be able to see its alterations on things that nature, alone, cannot reverse.

A true miracle or answer to prayer would be an event that science has shown could never be reversed—like the growing back of an amputated limb. If prayers offer nothing more than what science already tells us via the possibilities of statistical probability and analysis, then what “real” benefit does prayer confer to humanity?

A couple areas where prayers do appear to work more than say—growing back amputated limbs or reversing a chronic state of paraplegia—are in interpersonal relationships, personal life experience including, goals, dreams, career and/or in character growth. Prayer, like meditation, in these cases, acts as a boon to humanity and its’ survival. It is not because the prayers worked like a magical incantation influencing the physics of the world, or, as a means to summon the intervention of a deity, but, because in these cases, prayer(s) functioned like a meditation.

Meditation has been shown to help individuals on a deeply personal level. After all, what is prayer anyway? Is it not the adoption of a quiet, contemplative state, allowing for a greater capacity to ponder one’s life, circumstances, needs, and perhaps open the mind to new methods of interacting with others? Prayer appears to help us because it helps reveal road-blocks and specific issues in our relationships and character. In interpersonal relationships, prayer seems to unveil our own problems that can be changed to increase the communication and trust levels within our relationships.

So, opening ourselves up to “god”, so to speak, is really a way of opening up our selves to our selves—to our subconscious mind; not to some personal, yet invisible entity. Prayer forces us to think about and focus on our life circumstances and our needs. It creates an invitation for the mind to respond with possible fixes that we may have over looked in our other stressful brain states…in the worry and flurry of everyday life. Thus, “prayer” is really no different than a form of intense focus, visualization or meditation. It provides an opportunity to see things in a different light. It purveys us to develop new, improved attitudes to these situations so that we can discover our hidden ability to cope and function in a more positive, beneficial manner.

Whenever you hear that prayer works, you will almost always notice its influence in the areas mentioned above: interpersonal relationships, personal life experiences and in character growth. These are three areas that can improve whether one is a believer or an atheist. Thus, it does not require “prayer” or a particular devotion to a certain religion to produce these kinds of beneficial changes in one’s life. These are generic life changes and can be produced by various means whether it be through religion (via prayer), meditation, being more open to others about your needs, increasing one’s self esteem, medication, counseling, a personal decision to improve one’s conduct (then circumstances will change) changing friends or exploring a new hobby etc.

There are many mediums that can be employed to experience real, beneficial changes in one’s life or a new direction. Thus, any “answered prayer” that can be fit into the generic categories above, does not prove the validity of a particular religion or deity. While prayer may personally help believers, it is not for the reasons they think.

---By Renee Nafziger