Monday, March 30, 2009

The Hate Syndrome

Hatred is many things. But in very general terms it is attention targeted at an idea, an objet or person, with intent to do damage. The foundation of which is usually pain, past or current. Hate features ignorance of all other angle on or concern about its target. It fuels focused imagination and eventually actions to resolve itself.

The picture above was taken in Montreal, Quebec, a few weeks ago during an annual yet impromptu march against police violence. Hatred is often but not always mutual. And it is sometimes caused not by directly by pain, where the object of hate is unrelated to its subject, as in the case of acute mental illness. Or when hatred is directed towards a symbol, an image that incorporates what the subject feels. To hate is to feel intense dislike, or extreme aversion or hostility, always with a reason. Hatred is not evil, it is a syndrome of many emotions, attitudes, views, intentions, and it burns everything it touches. Hatred is animal.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Prayer Is Superstition

A prayer has the same effect as a lucky horseshoe. Statistically none. No effect whatsoever. It does however stimulate the imagination into creating excuses when a demonstration of the effect of prayers (or horseshoes) fails miserably.

The above video is somewhat "not exciting" to watch but it's arguments are rock solid.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Jesus, Good Luck

Someone just rang at the door and offered me to participate in a celebration of Jesus in the neighborhood.  I answered that I wished him good luck.

He didn’t get it and asked if I was interested to learn more about Jesus. I repeated that I wished him good luck in his enterprises, he left.

The Jesus of the age

I’m not sure but I think it was our parish priest.  The Catholics are frenetic with Easter coming…  Here’s a collage I made: The Jesus Of The Age, constantly re-manufactured through time.

Myths, legends and superstitions have incredible long lives, which tends to show that imagination is useful in evolutionary terms.

I heard someone saying that at least, priests don’t reproduce.  It is true, but the really serious problem is that they teach errors, misconceptions, biases and worse.

I find nothing to celebrate here.

The Biological World

When I first saw Carl Sagan's Cosmos, I never thought it would still be necessary, almost thirty years later, to be argueing these points over and over again...

This program (Carl Sagan's Cosmos - Part 2, released in 1981, is posted here) should simply be required viewing for every kid, as soon as she or he can understand half the words Dr. Sagan uses. They all absolutely need to be exposed to these clear explanations on the "stuff of life" and what is the scientific worldview. Not just the bright, curious or scientifically-inclined child, every child should watch Cosmos. Better in an educational curriculum but if not, in all possible contexts.

I agree that "we are a way for the Cosmos to know itself" and I think that fighting ignorance is part of that job, still.

Side Note: At 43 min. he uses as demonstrations of DNA's vital role blood processes that would eventually lead to his death in 1996, of pneumonia caused by myelodysplasia an immune system disease. See also here.

Monday, March 23, 2009



When you rearrange the letters:

Is that confirmation or evidence?
The French certainly don't have to worry about this one!

Counter Measure:

Design Fiction, for a better, more creative use for imagination.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Immaterial Reality

Matter is immaterial, but you can now slow and freeze light.

Better be able to wrap our heads around the idea. Since we must learn to often rely on the unreliable, fundamental concepts on the uncertain nature of reality are of a certain importance.

Better be able to wrap our heads around these experimental ideas than filling them with notions of "invisible forces". Make me a machine like the lady's got in the above video that capture's god's will and I'll gladly reconsider.

Bring me data that shows a soul leaving a body at death - while I'm waiting, I'll keep on thinking there's enough exciting stuff going around in the actual universe without introducing the superfluous "otherly".

Local Reality

There's enough information on our local neighborhood to counter irrational knowledge about its purported created origin.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Humans Still Evolving

To my great surprise, I only recently learned that the consensus among scientists was that humans had ceased evolving more than fifty thousand years ago. They held that natural selection hasd't come into play since then and that our modern skulls houses Stone Age minds.

But closer observation of the genetic material of the last ten thousand years now seem to show that instead, there's rather been a growth, an avalanche of evolutionary changes in the human body during that recent period and apparently the mutations accelerate as we speak.

The brain, digestive system, lifespan, immunity, sperm production and bones, some two thousand mutations have been identified and traced back. We are differenciating under a wide diversity of environments, the variations in social condition, lifestyle, stress levels, pollution, and the intensification of some of these factors that comes with population growth, all at a recently unsuspected speed.

What will we be in five hundred years?

Learn more from DiscoverMagazine.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Converting First Impressions

Neuroscientists at New York University and Harvard University have identified the neural systems involved in forming first impressions of others. The findings, which show how we encode social information and then evaluate it in making these initial judgments, are reported in the most recent issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience.


The neuroimaging results showed significant activity in two regions of the brain during the encoding of impression-relevant information. The first, the amygdala, is a small structure in the medial temporal lobe that previously has been linked to emotional learning about inanimate objects, as well as social evaluations based on trust or race group. The second, the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), has been linked to economic decision-making and assigning subjective value to rewards. In the Nature Neuroscience study, these parts of the brain, which are implicated in value processing in a number of domains, showed increased activity when encoding information that was consistent with the impression.

Think Fast, A Vital Ability

In the brain, first impressions seem to be linked to multiple functional areas: to an emotional learning enabler, to the system used in building a sense of social rewards and values, and to how we estimate winning compatibility with our peers. The original first few seconds imprint can then initiate a self-confirming loop of likes or dislikes that will usually stick to us. Specially if corroborated by further information.

But then again, these first impressions can be shattered, switched, eroded or mutated. A friendship of forty years, I started with a strong antipathy; another long-time friend I did not really trust for a long while.

More information, intuition, effort, a revelation or even chance can convert a first impression. It happens. Both ways, from right to wrong and from mistaken to pertinent. The relative reliability and success of this arrangement though, seem to show that we are more often right than we are wrong, fast judgement is probably a vital ability.

The success of this strategy however also might explain why some first impression will never be convertible. Why some people will not be able to change their mind, adopt a different view, reconsider a relationship or the nature of some content. With fast (or lazy) jugments the flexibility seems to be lost.

Hence the hard-core devots, irreductible fanatists and even suicide-cultists.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Benevolent Design

Evil proven. Maybe more than an indifferent universe.

It is fearsome. And it somewhat legitimizes this need to fantasize on an imaginary benevolent designer. But it is now safe to say that observations and measurements have shown no trace of such benevolence in the known universe.

Other than for small occasional "pockets of luck", this is a dangerous place.


Supernatural faith-based religions create undue fear and worries in the minds of children and adults about things that don't exist. It redirects time, money, resources and people wanting to do good into useless endeavours. It promotes magical and superstitious thinking. It gives respect and credence to religious leaders for no good reason - and often with terrible results.


Fear, worries, time, money, resources, useless endeavours - all soaked in good intention salsa (from dulce to picante).

That's what one has to invest in order to adhere to irrational views.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

My Pretension

Pretending you know what you're doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you're doing even if you don't and do it.

Bre Pettis and Kio Stark's "Cult of Done manifesto".

So let's pretend that I'm a human animal, bent on science and philosophy, an artist and a curious observer of both inside and outside realities.

That's what I say I am.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Learning From Books

Learning From Books, originally uploaded by me.

My advice at this point in time:

Learn from as many books as possible. When learning is to come from books, make sure there are enough in your library. If learning is to come through the entertainment you get from books, read multiple tales from different authors to build as many angles as possible.