Friday, November 14, 2008

Hitchens vs. Rabbi Wolpe

This never gets old to me. Always funny. The creativity of the religious apologist is endless. I added part 10 of 11 because it is sort of climactic. 


2late2hate said...

Brain scans of people shown images of individuals they hate reveal a unique pattern of brain activity, report UK researchers.
Researchers from University College London report their findings in the current issue of the journal PLoS One.

"Our results show that there is a unique pattern of activity in the brain in the context of hate," they write.
The researchers showed 17 men and women pictures of someone the volunteers said they hated along with three familiar, neutral faces. The hated individuals were all former lovers or work rivals, except for one famous politician.

They say brain scans identified a pattern of activity in different areas of the brain the researchers called a "hate circuit" that switched on when people saw faces they despised.

"As far as we can determine it is unique to the sentiment of hate even though individual sites within it have been shown to be active in other conditions that are related to hate," the researchers write.

The so-called hate circuit includes structures in the cortex and the sub-cortex and represents a pattern distinct from emotions such as fear, threat and danger, says lead author Professor Semir Zeki.
One part of the brain that switched on was an area considered critical in predicting other people's actions, something that is likely key when confronting a hated person, the researchers said.

Thin line between love and hate?

The brain activity also occurred in the putamen and insula, two areas activated when people viewed the face of a loved person. Scientists have linked the regions to aggressive action and distressing situations, says Zeki.

"This linkage may account for why love and hate are so closely linked to each other in life," the researchers write.
But there were important differences as well between the love and hate circuits. A bigger part of the cerebral cortex - an area linked to judgment and reasoning - de-activates with love compared to hate.
While both emotions are all-consuming passions, it may be that people in love are often less critical and judgmental about their partner but need to maintain their focus when dealing with a hated rival, say the researchers.

"It is more likely that in the context of hate the hater may want to exercise judgment in calculating moves to [cause] harm," says Zeki.

Anonymous said...

Every good piece of evidence informs us that Chris Hitchens is correct. Religion is a purely anthropological phenomenon. If one wants to understand human behavior, one need only study zoology. It is not that man is like an ape. On the contrary, man is an ape!

The nature of man can be summed up in one single word: violent.

Darwinian evolution and the study of evolutionary biology contain the keys to understanding the broad patterns of human behavior. Even if there were a deity and life after death--indeed, immortal life--that wouldn't make this current life any less painful. It wouldn't alleviate the slightest tinge of pain and suffering or absurdity.

By any measure, human life amounts to an evil process unfolding through time. It is only interesting if viewed through the eyes of a scientist, writer, philosopher, or historian, trying to make sense of its nature and trajectory. In brief, life can only be appreciated as an aesthetic phenomenon, but it must be lived as a brutal, Darwinian phenomenon.

I applaud all attempts to expose the neurobiological substrate and the mechanisms of its inner workings which account for both human behavior and phenomenological experience. The inevitable outcome of this life of investigation has already been summarized by Hermann Hesse in his book _Steppenwolf_: "See what monkeys we are!"

Human animals entertain themselves by selecting for unique talents, working in groups, and producing products or ideas that are then deployed throughout society. For instance, Steve Jobs ruthlessly seeks brilliant talent to produce his electronic devices. Frank Lloyd Wright sought brilliant architects to work for him to bring about his architectural ideas. The mobilization of innate talent toward some externally defined goal leads to flow states that produce pleasure and a sense of satisfaction, both of which we may abbreviate under the single word, happiness. Of course, these purposes are man-made.

One fundamental question that must be answered by religionists is: Does the universe have a moral purpose? If the answer is no, then Camus's views are correct. If it's yes, then what could that purpose possibly be, and how could any individual realize it if his fate is to develop Alzheimer's disease? To rescue such an argument, it appears all too convenient to introduce the idea of a "higher Self."

Is there any reason for us to make such verbal judo moves, or are we safe in simply assuming that we must deal with whatever we can sense--either directly or through the use of instruments?

What if the greatest secret in life is that death means death--that death is oblivion?

Life is completely absurd, and one need only read Camus's Caligula for the final verdict.


Anonymous said...

What would a world without religion be like?

Would Proposition H8 have ever gotten onto the California ballot?


Aaron said...

Steve, I must say I almost miss your ramblings. it has been months since I banned your email address from my account. I feel like I have been deprived of that existential angst you continuously reminded me about. Reading your writing makes me suddenly sit up and remember, "oh ya! I am supposed to spend every waking moment of my life fearing death and panicking about growing older. Yet, no matter what activity I fill my days with, i am wasting my time. What to do?"

A contradiction? I agree, everything we do is a "waste of time". If you ever figure out what a person can possibly do that is worthwhile in their lives let me know. Creating art seems a worthwhile use of time to me. Few have this luxury. Philosophy is the study of an ever finer and more detailed understanding that the human experience, as absurd as it is, is inescapable.

Spirituality, second only to rape, is the most Darwinian thing there is.

Anonymous said...

Having studied psychology, I've wondered if men like Jim Jones were mentally ill. On the surface, many would believe this to be an obvious fact. However, what if he were perfectly sane, but operating under false beliefs? What if all of his actions were perfectly logical and followed from his beliefs?

I contend that Jim Jones was perfectly sane and acting in accordance with his beliefs, which were reinforced by his congregants. They wanted more and more, and he felt obligated to provide more and more in order to maintain his superior social status. In brief, it made him feel good and important, becoming an addiction, eventually spiraling out of control.

Listen to this FBI file:

What do you make of that?


PS Aaron, I concur with your analysis about the absurdity of life. Even when the few "decoy birds" that Schopenhauer writes about do manage to enjoy themselves, it is a joy that will soon end, and then the darkness will come that will exterminate them in squalor, pain, tension, and fear.

Aaron said...

The hijackers on 9/11 were just as sane as Pat Robertson. Sane, and acting on their convictions.

Anonymous said...


Don't fret.

"Reverend" Marion Gordon "Pat" Robertson will soon be exterminated by the forces of entropy. Where, then, will his White Father deity be?

There will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth as the bigoted man descends into the permanent quiescence of death, but not before a lightning flash of a fist descends from on high to deliver the fatal blow.

And The Father will say:

"Bye-bye, Love."