EssentialstheDiagonal is a personal blog by Mike Gerra, skeptic, technologist, psychologist, artist, humanist, collector of grand, eclectic ideas.theDiagonal blog connects the dots across multiple disciplines for inquisitive, objective and critical thinkers, exploring the vertices of big science, disruptive innovation, global sustainability, illuminating literature and leftfield art. It is on this diagonal that creativity thrives, big ideas take flight and reason triumphs.
Tag Archives: morality
Monday, June 17, 2013
Saturday, June 15, 2013
The Cold War between the former U.S.S.R and the United States brought us the perfect acronym for the ultimate human “game” of brinkmanship — it was called MAD, for mutually assured destruction.
Now, thanks to ever-evolving technology, increasing military capability, growing environmental exploitation and unceasing human stupidity we have reached an era that we have dubbed SAD, for self-assured destruction. During the MAD period — the thinking was that it would take the combined efforts of the world’s two superpowers to wreak global catastrophe. Now, as a sign of our so-called progress — in the era of SAD — it only takes one major nation to ensure the destruction of the planet. Few would call this progress. Noam Chomsky offers some choice words on our continuing folly.
Monday, July 16, 2012
A court in Germany recently banned circumcision at birth for religious reasons. Quite understandably the court saw that this practice violates bodily integrity. Aside from being morally repugnant to many theists and non-believers alike, the practice inflicts pain. So, why do some religions continue to circumcise children?
A German court ruled on Tuesday that parents may not circumcise their sons at birth for religious reasons, because the procedure violates the child’s right to bodily integrity. Both Muslims and Jews circumcise their male children. Why is Christianity the only Abrahamic religion that doesn’t encourage circumcision?...read more
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
So, you think an all-seeing, all-knowing supreme deity encourages moral behavior and discourages crime? Think again.
From New Scientist:
There’s nothing like the fear of eternal damnation to encourage low crime rates. But does belief in heaven and a forgiving god encourage lawbreaking? A new study suggests it might – although establishing a clear link between the two remains a challenge.
Azim Shariff at the University of Oregon in Eugene and his colleagues compared global data on people’s beliefs in the afterlife with worldwide crime data collated by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. In total, Shariff’s team looked at data covering the beliefs of 143,000 individuals across 67 countries and from a variety of religious backgrounds....read more
Saturday, May 5, 2012
From Scientific American:
In the mid 1990’s, Apple Computers was a dying company. Microsoft’s Windows operating system was overwhelmingly favored by consumers, and Apple’s attempts to win back market share by improving the Macintosh operating system were unsuccessful. After several years of debilitating financial losses, the company chose to purchase a fledgling software company called NeXT. Along with purchasing the rights to NeXT’s software, this move allowed Apple to regain the services of one of the company’s founders, the late Steve Jobs. Under the guidance of Jobs, Apple returned to profitability and is now the largest technology company in the world, with the creativity of Steve Jobs receiving much of the credit....read more
Monday, April 30, 2012
Attend a wedding. Gather the hundred or so guests, and take their blood. Take samples that is. Then, measure the levels of a hormone called oxytocin. This is where neuroeconomist Paul Zak’s story beings — around a molecular messenger thought to be responsible for facilitating trust and empathy in all our intimate relationships.
From “The Moral Molecule” by Paul J. Zak, to be published May 10, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal:
Could a single molecule—one chemical substance—lie at the very center of our moral lives?...read more
Friday, February 24, 2012
By most estimates Facebook has around 800 million registered users. This means that its policies governing what is or is not appropriate user content should bear detailed scrutiny. So, a look at Facebook’s recently publicized guidelines for sexual and violent content show a somewhat peculiar view of morality. It’s a view that some characterize as typically American prudishness, but with a blind eye towards violence.
From the Guardian:
Thursday, February 2, 2012
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
The social standing of atheists seems to be on the rise. Back in December we cited a research study that found atheists to be more reviled than rapists. Well, a more recent study now finds that atheists are less disliked than members of the Tea Party.
With this in mind Louise Antony ponders how it is possible for atheists to acquire morality without the help of God.
From the New York Times:
I was heartened to learn recently that atheists are no longer the most reviled group in the United States: according to the political scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell, we’ve been overtaken by the Tea Party. But even as I was high-fiving my fellow apostates (“We’re number two! We’re number two!”), I was wondering anew: why do so many people dislike atheists?...read more
Monday, January 2, 2012
Fans of science fiction and Isaac Asimov in particular may recall his three laws of robotics:
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
Of course, technology has marched forward relentlessly since Asimov penned these guidelines in 1942. But while the ideas may seem trite and somewhat contradictory the ethical issue remains – especially as our machines become ever more powerful and independent. Though, perhaps first humans, in general, ought to agree on a set of fundamental principles for themselves.
Colin Allen for the Opinionator column reflects on the moral dilemma. He is Provost Professor of Cognitive Science and History and Philosophy of Science at Indiana University, Bloomington....read more
Sunday, July 31, 2011
Some people claim that morality is dependent upon religion, that atheists cannot possibly be moral since god and morality are intertwined (well, in their minds). Unfortunately, this is one way that religious people dehumanise atheists who have a logical way of thinking about what constitutes moral social behaviour. More than simply being a (incorrect) definition in the Oxford dictionary, morality is actually the main subject of many philosophers’ intellectual lives. This video, the first of a multi-part series, begins this discussion by defining morality and then moving on to look at six hypothetical cultures’ and their beliefs.
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Tuesday, May 10, 2011
In his new book, American atheist Sam Harris argues that science can replace theology as the ultimate moral authority. Kenan Malik is sceptical of any such yearning for moral certainty, be it scientific or divine....read more
Friday, September 19, 2008
Having condemned hyper-sexualized culture, the American religious Right is now wildly pro-sex, as long as it is marital sex. By replacing the language of morality with the secular notion of self-esteem, repression has found its way back onto school curricula – to the detriment of girls and women in particular. “We are living through an assault on female sexual independence”, writes Dagmar Herzog.
“Waves of pleasure flow over me; it feels like sliding down a mountain waterfall,” rhapsodises one delighted woman. Another recalls: “It’s like having a million tiny pleasure balloons explode inside of me all at once.”...read more