These are serious questions I’d like to explore. Please answer, add, or explain anything listed here:

1) Where do souls come from?

2) When does a soul really “enter” a human? Is it at conception?

3) If so, then what about in the case of fraternal twins? Does the soul split in two in order to inhabit both siblings?

4) How do souls interact with biological matter?

5) When a soul enters a newly formed embryo, is it the same age? Is the soul older?

6) Do souls age with the person?

7) Are souls directly connected to the biological matter of a human?

8) If so, are humans that suffer brain injury or loss of mental ability still contain a soul? Is the soul fully cognizant?

9)If you were to remove the brain from a body, would the brain contain the soul or the body?

10) Are souls self aware?

11) If we know when souls enter the body, do we know at the exact moment in which it exits?

12) Are ghosts displaced souls?

13) If you accept evolution, at what point did Homo Erectus start attaining souls?

14) Only humans have souls?

Please inform me.

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http:// http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1E7I7_r3Cw&feature=youtube_gdata_player

More on making learning fun.

Video  —  Posted: August 14, 2012 in Uncategorized
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It’s become my new mission to make Science cool in a pop-culture sense. Riding the wave of the new Mars lander, Curiosity, I think it’s a great moment to capitalize on the focus of these things while the time is right.

 

So here is the Wikipedia explanation of Schrodinger’s Cat. If not your brain is both dead and alive at the same time.

 

 

There has been a lot in the news about Mitt Romney’s dubious personal finances. So when his wife, Ann Romney, went onto ABC to defend her husband she incidentally stepped in shit, twice. Having had to explain why her husband would refuse to show how he manipulated the system within the parameters of the law, but perhaps against the spirit of patriotism (what with tax loopholes, offshore accounts, et al.), she took up a daunting task indeed.

The liberal minded media saw her second step in shit when she said, “We’ve given all you people need to know.” The question is who is “You”? Is it just liberals? Well that wouldn’t make sense because it was largely demanded by many of Romney’s fellow party members including George Will, Ron Paul, Bill Kristol and Michael Steele! Does “you” refer to Americans? The media? Who? This comes right after Mitt himself said, “It’s kind of amusing,” that people wanted his tax returns.

In any case, there was a subtle sentence before that which has caught my attention which I think Ann Romney tried to pitch as a way to measure Mitt’s character.

“…He is a very generous person. We give 10% of our income to the church every year.”

For those of you who aren’t listening, that’s the Chuch of Latter Day Saints. The Mormon church asks all its members to tithe 10% of their income. What Romney donates, even by the Mormon church’s standards, is not an exceptional donation. It is what is expected of him.

Is tithing charity?

If what Ann Romney was trying to show was that Mitt was a charitable human being, then we’d have to examine what it means to be charitable. If a person is giving resources, time, money, and/or effort at the expense of one’s self to those who would benefit much more from it, then we can say that it is charity. If one does not wish to donate time or effort, money might be sufficient, but are all financial donations charitable? Hardly! I don’t consider paying Verizon a large fraction of my paycheck even close to being charitable. However, I feel it could be argued that Verizon does more for a society, indeed the world, than The Church of Latter Day Saints. Verizon, could certainly be more transparent about where the money goes as made famous by BusinessWeek’s front-page article. It’s really important you read this article in order to understand how a church, any church, doesn’t constitute as a charitable organization.

If not, it is humorously simplified here by Bill Maher:

For more on the ethics of charity, read works by Peter Singer.

“It was all God’s plan.”

This is a horrific, insincere, and damaging statement. That there wasn’t a bigger outcry against this type of excuse is disappointing. He doesn’t even… I can’t believe… What the… Ah!

Setting aside the whole God-has-a-plan farce (for the moment), why isn’t it said that this is dissuading guilt and blame? If it was God’s plan, then Zimmerman can feel like he couldn’t have done otherwise. This reinforces his conviction that what he did wasn’t wrong or even tragic! He was doing what God had wanted him to do.

Instead he says, “I do wish that there was something…anything I could’ve done that wouldn’t have put me into the position where I had to take his life.”

This is a perfect example of vindication and blame. He is, tacitly saying that it was either Trayvon Martin’s fault, and that God willed it that way, but he wishes it could’ve been different. In what other instance does this line of thinking even get a serious platform?

It seems obvious to me that this would be part of his defense. That the situation and the series of events that unfolded put Zimmerman in a situation where he couldn’t have done otherwise is meant to undermine his culpability. This of course is false, as evidence is provided by police and investigators. And, in all of their analysis and scrutiny, those investigators have not turned up a shred of evidence showing that God had a guiding hand in the matter.

The God’s plan appeal is an attempt to manipulate the emotional favor of the stupid. I’m not saying that Believers are stupid, but that anyone who accepts this as a sincere response is quite staggeringly so. It is counterintuitive to both Christian and Secular morality. No one should be surprised that that venue chosen for this interview was Fox.

While I have a mild aversion to David Silverman as a spokesperson for the Atheist vantage point, I think he uses his short and unpredictable amount of time here well.

Oh, and this Don Lemon guy is making a fan out of me.

Any comments on what these people had to say?

Ireland has endured much of the brunt of the religious offensive on civilized society. Having had to outlast the conflicts Catholicism has wrought and Ireland’s battles with the Englishmen’s church, much of the Irish citizenry, as of late, has lost its taste for the divine. The Roman Catholic Church has had much to answer for by way of child molestation and the concealment there of. We might reel at the stories and accounts of what happens here, stateside, but to be sure, Ireland has had it worse. We are talking in terms of thousands when it comes to abuse cases in Ireland, some of which include high ranking officials directly. America, while a very religious country, still managed to turn against the organization of Roman Catholicism, but imagine if we had discovered transgressions on the scale of thousands here in our own backyard!

So a member of the Irish legislative branch has concocted a law to be introduced that takes an indirect swipe at the Catholic Church. “Under the new law, every person in the state is obliged to report suspected sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults to police,” according to an article on IrishCentral.com. So naturally this raises the eyebrows of priests that hear confessions. Not only did their eyebrows rise, but a group of over 800 priests vowed to disobey this law. Apparently the inalienable rights Catholics have to confession trump the inalienable rights children have to not being sexually abused.

Let us, for a minute, not argue over the legitimacy of the legislation. The article I got this tirade from already addresses whether or not the law is practical and whether it is plausible to put into use in cases of anonymity in places like a confessional booth. I’d rather focus on the moral implications of the act of confession, and the duties good people have to reduce the suffering of children.

This is an argument for what the moral duties of a priest are, and as agents of benevolence, what they should be:

Evil must be encompassed by the mental, emotional, or physical suffering of any sentient beings. If what it means to be “good” means anything, then let us say that to be good means to actively eliminate evil whenever it is possible. So when superheroes do good, they are actively fighting evil so to speak, even if it is removing a cat from a tree, or helping a nervous elderly woman cross the street. When they are unaware, they cannot be to blame. If Spiderman was unaware of a murder about to take place, we could

I’m ignoring you, when I’m busy being Clark Kent

not hold him responsible. But if he were to swing by on a web, witness an altercation where a murder was underway, and he kept on swinging, then we might ask him why he didn’t do anything about it. We might be pretty pissed off at him. Superman can hear and be aware of all the events all over the world (and sometimes further) all at once. When Superman is busy being Clark Kent, and many people are suffering around the world, he is actively ignoring his duty to save the people whom he is aware of, that are suffering. He could be saving everyone all the time from the evils of life with his super awareness and super speed, but he doesn’t. Boy Scout, he is not. So morally speaking, we are saying that if someone is aware of suffering, or imminent suffering, then in order to be a good person one must reduce that suffering to the extent that one can. If you do not try to reduce this suffering, either by an act of will or omission, then you are not doing good, in fact you are contributing to the existence of evil.

I will, for the time being, grant the existence of souls, and an afterlife because I intend to show that priests, and indeed all Catholics by extension, violate morality even by the lights of their own faith.

When a priest hears a confession, thereby eliminating the sins of the penitent, let us say that they are eliminating the evil and suffering that the soul of the sinner will endure in hell. This, according to the church, is an act of inscrutable good. But, what about the suffering of the people that the sinner inflicts? If that sinner is a child molester, and the confession comes in the form of a blatant admittance of abuse of a minor, then should it not also be the duty of the priest to eliminate that suffering as well? Again, if evil means anything it means the needless mental, emotional, and physical suffering of a being—in this case a helpless one. It seems rather apparent that an agent of good, like a priest, must stop evil where ever it is present, so that to save a potential soul from the fiery pits of hell should not have to take primacy over an abused child. This is intuitively abhorrent, unless of course you believe the eternally suffering soul of a child molester is a greater suffering than the momentary suffering of a child here on Earth.

Here is where the issue of full goodness is lost. It seems like there is no reason why a priest shouldn’t make the attempt to reduce the possibility of future child molestations. If a Catholic child molester, who is willing to confess their sins, if not for their own psychological benefit, but for the sake of their souls, then presumably they would do so even if they knew this might mean incarceration. The priests would be dutifully helping the child molester, his soul, and the potentially molested children.

Unless, of course, the allure for the child molester is the ability to confess without having to fear Earthly retribution. When we take our focus away from the priest, and on to the child molester, we can see how this would be a dream come true. A sexual offender can save their souls, release their psychological guilt, and continue molesting children.

Let us also consider for a moment the dynamics of confession and absolution. It seems to me, that while we envision the most deviant of us to be emotionless and malevolent, it is probably true that those who commit crimes involving child abuse, sexual predation, and murder are probably remorseful to some degree. If it helps you to swallow this, at least imagine that some of these offenders might seek to ease their own guilt through means like confession. We can see that in prisons the vast majority of inmates are religious. And almost by definition through the Abrahamic faiths, religion entails a corollary between behavior now and punishment or reward in the afterlife. If for no other reason, this is enough motivation for some offenders, namely sexual offenders, to be concerned about their well being in some manner.

The inexorable question then arises: to what end does confession reduce overall suffering?

A thought experiment:

Smith molests a child. He feels a very secluded and private pain and guilt about having done it, though at times he feels as though he cannot control himself when he feels the urge to do it again. His impulses over come him. He cannot find consolation anyone else, for fear of his own well being. His guilt is not so strong as to subject himself to the horrors of the American (or Irish) penal system. He seeks out a means of catharsis through his faith. Smith attends mass and approaches the confessional booth. There he admits his sins to Father Jones who, having endured the agony of hearing this powerful confession, advises Smith to seek out help. It is important, says the priest, that Smith realizes he is committing a grave sin and the eyes of God always see him, and will be with him. Father Jones then says that the man has already taken the first step towards absolution by admitting his sin and realizing what he is doing is wrong. God looks kindly upon those who realize their faults. Jones assigns many prayers of repentance to Smith and dismisses him.

Are we then to rely on the remorseful conscience of a man who already can not control his deviancies, with the prospect of divine revelation? I should certainly hope not.

If Smith commits the crime again, even if it is only once, is Father Jones now complicit? Does his position as arbiter of moral matters demand that he be culpable of a crime? Is he an accomplice?