Truth Evolves (Book Review)

Dustin Arand is an American lawyer and a Philosopher with an apt for rigorous philosophical enquiry and formulation. This is no more evident than in the book ‘Truth Evolves’- a book like no other in its field.

Dustin’s book delves into epistemology, ethics and the nature of ‘truth’ with startling detail and insight. ‘Truth Evolves’ takes the reader on an intellectual journey through the various philosophies of knowledge, mind, biology and ethics in the attempt of engaging with the reader on an intellectual landscape. (Dustin opens each chapter with a brilliant quote.) In ‘Truth Evolves’, Dustin applies evolutionary theory to epistemology and accounts for the constant adaptation of truth, and the helpfulness of this adaptation to humanity’s development. This helpfulness is reiterated in the concept of ‘corrigibility’; “corrigibility refers to a property of any institution, be it political, academic, professional, or otherwise, and to the language (or languages) prevailing within and between such institutions, such that they are capable of adapting themselves to the changing demands of the environmental conditions that constitute their raison d’être [a property’s purpose]”. This concept weaves itself throughout the book and is an important element in the understanding of the author’s thesis. Furthermore, the author emphasises the need for individuals to adjust their mentality towards a deeper understanding of reality, and expresses the consequences of intellects that depart from this deeper understanding.The means by which Dustin expresses this is through modern day examples such as the civil rights debate.

Now, the book does have to be read more than once – once for feeling and the second for analysis – and it can be hard to read at certain places. However, like Immanuel Kant’s ‘Critique of Pure Reason’ the book is not meant to be read in one’s leisure, it is instead meant to be analysed and thoroughly assessed. Overall, the book is a good read for anyone interested in epistemology, ethics, morality, truth or evolution.

Read From: May 26th-June 15th, 2015

Rating: 4.5/5—I definitely recommend it for those interested in Evolution and its relationship to epistemology.

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson

Link to Goodreads Review:

Islam and The Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue (Book Review)

Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz’s ‘Islam and the future of Tolerance: A Dialogue’ is an informative and hopeful dialogue on a number of pressing issues of today, ranging from islamism to Islamic reform. With wit, intelligence and scrutiny all rolled into a short and succinct book, Sam and Maajid effectively take head on these issues and come up with effective strategies to answer them. Easily read in an afternoon, this book is meant to be read in conjunction to the growing political, philosophical and cultural issues occurring in the world today—such as the culture war over Islam, the conflicts against ISIS in the Middle East, the growing rise of neo-Nazism in Europe and the intellectual debates centred around reform in Islam. In addition to this, the book provides a list of helpful sources easily verifiable, as well as provides a further reading information list for all those interested in the topics discussed. (It may not be very helpful to me, since I have read most of the books listed, but I am sure it will be helpful for new individuals entering the discussion.) There is very few things to criticise, as the book is very well written and its contents are discussed in a manner that provides little room for arguing.

It is a dialogue that needed to happen, as both individuals have been engaged in trying to provide discourse on Islam. However, both have been labelled as ‘bigots’, ‘Islamophobes’ and ‘Racists’ by those of the left (regressive leftists) for criticising Islam. Sam Harris himself has been for the last year and a half trying to combat these baseless accusations; hence is why I am glad that he addressed them in this book, as well as pushed past them in informing individuals about what really needs to be discussed. Maajid Nawaz was brilliant in this book, as his writing was more on point and his counter-points to Sam did provide room for further discussion and thought. In addition to this, Maajid has improved on his writing, as his last book ‘Radical’ was rather a disappointment in terms of writing.

As for the ideas being discussed, Islamism and regressivism are by far the most pressing concerns of today. Islamism is the political imposition of Islamic fundamentalism upon society, as manifested by groups such as the Islamic State. Maajid’s informative identifying of sub-branches within Islamism, such as jihadism and political islamism, was by far the most informative aspect of his part of the dialogue on this topic. Sam Harris’ critiques of Islamism, and by highlighting the fact that beliefs do matter, were also enlightening but I do feel that both could have done a more in-depth explanation of Islamism than they ended up doing. (Maajid’s distinction between traditional and conservative Muslims does appear to be misleading, but I trust that he is onto something when he distinguishes between them.)

Regressivism (Coined by Maajid Nawaz) is the political philosophy that has emerged from progressive politics and post-modern ‘Identity politics’, as of late. It is identified by individuals defying classical liberal principles, such as free-speech, freethought and individual autonomy and responsibility, all in the ideal of equality. This has resulted in ‘regressives’ (to use a term from Sam Harris) protecting Islam from criticism and has also resulted in the silencing of critics by regressives. This is truly evident in the west, because regressivism—especially in reference to Islam—is a by-product of Islamist apologetics and Sam Harris, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Maajid Nawaz and many others have been victims of this regressivism. This is further expressed in the book.

Maajid Nawaz makes reference to Dr. Hasan, who is a Islamic scholar and Quilliam, throughout the book. However, I do think that he needs to not fall prey to the false belief in trusting an authority figure too much, because even they can be wrong. This leads into another thought as well, and this is in regards to Maajid’s ‘relativist’ interpretation of the Quran and hadiths. If there is no ultimate interpretation of a text, then there is no right or wrong interpretation of a text. This is problematic for obvious reasons, as it creates stagnation and creates misinformation where there need not be any.

The above-mentioned paragraphs are just some of my thoughts on the ideas discussed in the book, as there are plenty more ideas that were discussed in the book, but I will allow individuals to explore those ideas for themselves.

Read from: October 19th-November 7th, 2015

Rating: 5/5 stars—This is definitely my book of the year so far.

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson

Link to Goodreads Review:

Letters to a concerned Free-Thinker, Letter #13: The Principles of Freethought

Dear Thinker.

If I were to set out the principles of freethought, principles that represented the ideals of the freethinker, would others who called themselves such agree with me? It would appear that freethought by its very essence cannot be represented by any one collection of principles, or ‘doctrines’ for that matter. Freethought is by its nature free. However, to take freethought to literally mean, “To be free from all external influences” is to misunderstand the concept entirely. Freethought does not advocate for the literal separation from all external factors, but rather it casts a sceptical eye on all external factors that wish to lay claim to truth, or which wish to advocate authority and tradition over individual inquiry. It is not the mere advocacy for an anarchist mindset; rather it is the advocacy for a mindset that uses logical analysis, reasoned argumentation and critical thought when assessing reality. Freethought may not adhere to doctrines, but it can be said that freethought is represented by certain principles. It is these basic principles that underline the philosophy behind freethought, and establish what it means to be a freethinker. It is because of the existence of this philosophy that the principles of freethought can be laid out. It is for this reason that I now attempt to do just that: to lay out the principles by which most, if not all, freethinkers align themselves to.

The following six principles create the foundation for freethought. They are listed below in numerical order; after each of these principles has been listed, they will then be expressed separately in the subsequent paragraphs that follow. Without further ado, here are the principles:

1. Question anything that relies upon authority, novelty or tradition for its foundation; for humanity is a fallible species.

2. Base all conclusions upon logic, reason and evidence; all conclusions that depart from this process, depart from reality.

3. Never fall prey to self-conceit or assumptive reasoning, for both lead to confirmation bias; one must assess thought constantly.

4. Seek out knowledge for its own sake; learning is an ongoing process, act accordingly.

5. Reject all forms of totalitarianism; for totalitarianism is thought control.

6. Beliefs motivate actions; unjustified beliefs lead to negative actions.

In regards to the first Principle:

Positions that rely upon their mere longevity, power or novelty have at their basis a superficial foundation that is easily replaced when the razor of doubt is applied to them. Authorities of any sort acquire their authority through public grant; for without support of any kind there would be no acknowledgement of their positions, hence no acknowledgement of their power. Public opinion is susceptible, most times, to error; for consensus is no guarantee of validity. Humanity is a fallible species that is capable of making mistakes in its own judgement – which it rarely admits to before damage can be done. There have been many instances in history where these mistakes in judgement have kept humanity ignorant, but one example will suffice for this piece. This example is of course the shift from geocentrism to heliocentrism:

The public consensus in western civilisations for nearly two millennia held that the Earth was the centre of the universe. This belief is known as ‘Geocentrism’: the belief that the celestial bodies orbit the Earth. Though the ancient Greeks originally held this belief, it was only given its status by the works of the Egyptian scientist Ptolemy.  Ptolemy’s model had, for centuries prior to the Copernican model, dominated western thought about the place of humanity in the universe. For centuries, establishments centred education, ideologies and other systems of thought on the notion that Earth is a privileged planet amongst the stars, hence humanity is somehow privileged because of this. It was not until this system, for its length of time, was finally challenged by individuals such as Nicolaus Copernicus, Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei that the reformation of thought could finally take place. The synthesis of Copernicus’ model of ‘Heliocentrism’ and Kepler’s ‘laws of planetary motion’, gave rise to a new understanding of the universe. Galileo’s additions to the synthesis, and his support for the theorem, gave rise to a flurry of dissenters who wished to hold onto Ptolemy’s model.  The Roman Catholic Church denied the Copernican model of the universe on religious grounds, but it was only until the trial of Galileo by the inquisition that this changed. This trial represented a turning point in humanity, as it would only be decades after this trial that humanity would realise its mistake in judgement.

The message that can be taken from this example should be obvious and is as follows:

What is considered valid today can be considered invalid tomorrow and as a precaution it is always imperative that the acknowledgement of this fact be recognised; for it is only when the recognition of fallibility is understood that real honest investigation can begin. In the debate over facts, no amount of individual acknowledgement ensures the validity of a proposition; only the evidence in support of that proposition ensures its validity. And though change comes gradually with the chipping away of past ideas, it is only with the persistence of new ideas and the alignment of those ideas with reality, that reformation is possible. Reformation is fuelled by questioning, which is at the heart of scepticism. For the foundation of freethought rests upon scepticism and the only way to exercise this scepticism is through constant questioning; questioning that is interested in truth.

In regards to the second Principle:

A house that is built upon mud will not withstand the mightiest of storms; for the rains that come will wash the foundations away, leaving nothing but the remains of a house that attempted to flee its own destruction. A house, however, that is built upon concrete foundations and is supported by strong materials, is able to resist any storm that is thrown at it; for its foundations will pass nature’s tests. The analogy of the two houses should be evident in meaning: the first house represents an unjustified conclusion; well the second house represents a justified conclusion. In addition to this, the storms represent reality and the challenge it poses to conclusions. If a conclusion is unable to meet with reality and treat reality as its master, then that conclusion is ultimately debased. A conclusion, for it to be considered one, needs to have its components justified. Justification for a proposition must come in the form of evidence, which is simply a means of recording the connection a proposition has with the world around it; the state of the world a proposition claims, must align with the actual state of the world. If a proposition is not justified (in other words is ‘unjustified’), then that means the proposition is unable to find a means of linking its main components with reality, thus making it false.

The role of reason, logic and evidence are the means by which the rational mind makes sense of reality. The process of understanding the world can only come through its analysis, and it is only through the analysis of reality that humanity knows itself. Logic is a means of mapping out the functions of objects, propositions, ideas and so forth within reality; it is the blueprint that allows humanity to make sense of reality and the processes and functions that occur within it. Reason is a thought process that is applied to the relationships of functions within reality, hence is the means of demonstrating how these relationships and functions work. When one is able to demonstrate these relationships and functions with logical principles, then they are reasoning their way through reality. Both logic and reason are means of understanding and analysing reality; and with their aid has come the development of societies.

The rational mind uses reason to dictate what conclusions it draws, as reason is the foundation that gives rise to the alignment of one’s thoughts with the world around them. Reason is a means by which humanity makes sense of the world and the recognition of it as a guiding force in one’s life is something that cannot be ignored; for when one engages in a discussion, they are unwittingly surrendering their faculties to the presumption that reason is useful. Reason is a huge step forward in the cognitive evolution of Homo sapiens, as it distinguishes humanity from the rest of the animal kingdom. It gives humanity the cognitive ability to think and act in a manner that is beneficial, as opposed to a manner that leads to the negation of survival. The adoption of reason has led to the development of society and it continues to remain an important element in the evolution of humanity. Without the ability to reason, there would be no humanity. Freethought owes its existence to logic, reason and the process of justification for beliefs, as these tools have forged the identity of what it means to be a freethinker.

In regards to the third Principle:

Confidence is not a bad attribute to have, especially in circumstances that require it, but overconfidence can be detrimental to intellectual integrity. When one is overconfident of their ability to think, they are likely to overlook their own faults in their assessment of others. This overconfidence leads to self-conceit, which elevates the individual to a status that is non-existent to their peers. The intellectual landscape positions everyone as equals, all have to play by the same rules of logic and reason; the only way an individual proves himself or herself on this landscape is through their own merit and thought. Self-conceit is a handicap to the individual on this landscape, as it makes the individual feel superior to these rules. When individuals feel cocksure of themselves, they will find their method of thought superior to others, hence will favour all lines of thought that confirm to their own. In this respect, self-conceit leads to confirmation bias: where the individual seeks out information that is preferable to their preconceptions, rather than assessing multiple sources of information that may be counter to their preconceptions.

For one to be wise they need to have intellectual humility and integrity, both are quintessential elements of a healthy intellectual mind. In order to have these elements one must be constantly vigilant of their own thought processes and constantly assess their thoughts through reflection. The acknowledgement of one’s own failings and the regard to judge oneself by the standards they put on others, is the characteristic of a freethinker; and if these characteristics are not evident in one who labels himself or herself as a ‘freethinker’, then what are they but pretenders? Be critical of every position, whether the majority or the minority supports that position, because – and you will realise this in time – the mere fact that one person raises their hand and vouches for a position, does not in any way strengthen the validity of that position. Yes, the position may have more support, but even that support can be misplaced. In all circumstances, take the position on its own merit and see if that position agrees with reason, the facts and so forth. Whether there be a crowd of a thousand or just one overbearing individual, never be intimidated by numbers. If the forces of the entire world stand against the truth and link hands to raise flags in error, then it would be one’s obligation – regardless of the opposition – to see that the truth is upheld.

In regards to the fourth Principle:

The acquisition of knowledge brings humanity closer to itself, as every instance of newfound knowledge allows humanity to see itself in the mirror of life. There is never a moment when one is done learning something new; everyone is constantly learning something different every day. Learning is a never-ending process, with rewards that are as varied as the very things being learned. To deny this fact is to deny what it is to be a human with the capability of thought: an individual who values knowledge for its own sake. Being able to know how to think as opposed to what to think, is the deciding factor that separates an autonomous mind from an enslaved one. An autonomous mind that knows how to think will not require the need for an ‘arbiter of knowledge’, as it will be instead independent on its own ability to identify problems and solve them, whereas an enslaved mind will be constantly dependent on an arbiter for its knowledge.

Freethought is the epitome of an autonomous mind – it is what education seeks to deliver. The result of education, in the sense of learning how to think, is to grant the individual freethought. A freethinker owe their position to the education they received, either taught to them or learned independently. Freethinkers agree unanimously on the value of education and the role that the acquisition of knowledge has in the emancipation of the mind. It is for this reason that it is included as a principle.

In regards to the fifth Principle:

The enemy of freethought is and has always been totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is the boot that wishes to stamp the white dove of liberty. Totalitarianism is characterised by the need of an entity, or an individual, to pursue absolute control of the mental state of an individual, and/or a group. (Thought control is what characterises totalitarianism; it is the desire of each totalitarian.) A totalitarian is the polar opposite of a freethinker in every single intellectual respect. What a totalitarian desires is in direct conflict to what a freethinker desires; well the latter pursues the autonomy of mind, it is the former that pursues the control of it. Every single totalitarian state that has ever existed has attempted to achieve control of the mental faculties of the population it governs. However, every time the attempt has been made to fully align the populace’s beliefs with the totalitarian’s beliefs, it has always been met with resistance. This resistance comes as a result of independent minds grouping together to resist forces that are against their own interests; every independent mind wishes to keep their own banner of mental autonomy. These independent minds reap the benefits of freethought and will likely fight tooth and nail to ensure its survival.

If a democratic society wishes to keep its democracy and ensure the prosperity of its future generations, then the population of that democracy needs to speak out against tyranny when it pokes out its ugly head. Freethought needs a democratic environment to flourish, because the liberties ensured by a democracy allow for the free expression of ideas between thinking individuals. Freethought depends upon this steady flow of ideas – it is the ‘part and parcel’ of freethought. Therefore, all freethinkers – in order to protect this steady flow of ideas – have to be enemies of totalitarianism (they have to be enemies of the totalitarian).

In regards to the final Principle:

Beliefs are what motivate actions; no action is made without a belief guiding it. With this said, beliefs that do not align with the way the world is (i.e. that is to say that are ‘unjustified in nature’), are likely to lead to negative effects on the subject holding the belief and to others around them as well. Take a simple example: If Alison believes in the proposition ‘Humans can fly’ and attempts to act upon this belief by jumping off a  skyscraper, then Alison will have to suffer the repercussions of her actions – this can come in the form of severe injuries or even death. In this example (though cliché), Alison was motivated by her belief in the proposition, however the belief was not justified which meant that the belief led to a negative action. If humans could indeed fly, then her belief would be justified and there would be no negative actions acting upon the belief alone. What is important to realise is that beliefs dictate the actions of the individual; what one believes will determine the life they lead. At first glance, this may not appear to be an important principle to note, however one could argue that this principle is the most important of all. If beliefs do indeed motivate actions and certain beliefs lead to negative actions, then it would follow that one should be cautious of what beliefs one holds to. To emphasise this, well at the same time using a more modern example of the negative effects of unjustified beliefs, let us take the most recent threat that has managed to emerge out of the Middle East: The Islamic State Of Iraq and Syria (aka ‘ISIS’).

Islamic state leaders announced in June of 2014, the desire for a global Islamic state (caliphate). The running of this caliphate will be done through sharia law – where the fusion of Wahhabi Islam and government is maintained. The purpose of this caliphate, as it is believed to be by those who wish to establish it, is to bring about judgement day, where the Monotheistic God of Islam will finally judge the people of the Earth. This belief is held by many Wahhabi Islamists, and has been one of the main driving forces behind the recruitment of ISIS fighters. These fighters will do anything to achieve that belief and anything to adhere to the edicts of their ideology, such as killing innocent civilians for the purpose of fear and the flexing of muscle. However, this belief supposes a number of assumptions, primarily being the assumption that a ‘Righteous God exists’. This belief has not been justified, because of the fact that it is a belief that relies on faith. Faith is one of the most dangerous components to a bad idea, as faith allows a belief to align with an idealistic reality as opposed to actual reality. The results of this poison cocktail have been overwhelming. The most recent of the horrors of ISIS has been the brutal shootings at a Tunisian beach and the beheading of a French factory worker. These are just some examples of the many atrocities that have happened in the wake of ISIS.

Freethought depends upon the healthy flow of ideas and the constant reassessment of beliefs to match with reality. It is for this very reason that freethinkers, those who wish to call themselves such, are unanimous on this very principle; for beliefs do motivate actions and it is what beliefs one has that will determine their course. Having a world of individuals who base their beliefs on reality and who help individuals align their beliefs, is a world that benefits all people. It is a principle that is the only thing separating a freethinker from a blind zealot, as a zealot dies for unjustified beliefs.

With all this said, these principles form the basic ‘definers’ of freethought. They may be broad and general in their scope, but they allow truly inquisitive minds to hone in their critical thinking skills. One may not have an authority on such principles, but one does have a mind that is capable of exercising thought. The only thing that remains for me to reiterate, is the question that I originally began with: If I were to set out the principles of freethought, principles that represented the ideals of the freethinker, would others who called themselves such agree with me? Only the freethinker can decide.

Knowledge is power.

Use it.

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson

Postulations: Ideological idealism

The future’s foundation is formed on the basis of the ideals manifested in today’s reality; that are passed onwards by generations who seek to make those set of ideals, tomorrow’s reality. The dreams of tomorrow’s world rest upon the ideals we lay down today, it is because of this, that the ideals we form today need to be anchored in a correct ideology like no other; an ideology anchored in reality, but still having the capacity to influence the formation of that reality; with the use of a methodology practical to all peoples within it.

It is thus for this reason, that the formation of such an ideology needs to rest upon an adequate form of idealism; not idealism in the immaterialist sense, but idealism in the colloquial sense, being that of a visionary pursuit to a progressive reality. This idealism, which will be known as, ‘ideological idealism’ basis itself chiefly on the reality by which it is created in; this is to say, that for any set of ideals to be progressive in altering the state of reality, it must follow logically, that those same ideals first conform to reality; thus conforming to the laws of nature, the social context and environmental pressures that influence reality, as well as the mode and function of it. Once those ideals have embraced reality, then comes the second task; seeking to establish a practical methodology that allows the ideology to achieve its goals and alter reality.

Finding a method that basis itself within reality, well seeking at the same time to alter it, requires a method that is both practical as it is intelligent; that can be utilised by both poor man and rich man alike, without class, gender, race or age discrimination. The methodology must be sound that it can work for labourer and businessman, rich and poor alike; altering the framework of society through what means it has available. It is through the barriers of reality that the ideals become strongest, as the ideals themselves utilise their surroundings in favour of slowly progressing its aims until it has successfully met them, regardless to how long or how hard it takes it.

Once the second task has been completed, the ideology produced will have the ability to alter the state of reality; a ‘progressive reality’ will be the product of this ideological idealism. However, for this idealism to meet its ends it must base its entire sequence on two principles that have been aforementioned already; ‘realism’ (again in the colloquial sense of the word, as that which conforms to reality.) and ‘pragmatism’ have been successfully incorporated as a foundation.

It is only through this sequence that idealists, visionaries, and dreamers can reach their progressive realities; yet, a warning needs to be expressed: Never go beyond what is necessary; for when one goes beyond what is necessary they shall find themselves having to increase efforts; this results in their ideology being at risk of collapse.

It has been too long that visionaries have had to see their dreams tarnished by ill-conceived notions that escaped reality; the reason for the failure of Marx, and other dreamers like him were that their ideology did not seek to escape the confines of theory and attach to the reality they were addressing. It is when an ideology meets with reality, and has a practical methodology to achieve its ends, does it alter reality; change only comes from within. It is because of the fact, that none of the most challenging and thoughtful ideologies that could change the world for good have never escaped theory, which they remain in their cages; it is time to free the bird from its cage, it is time to plant the seeds of idealism in the soil of reality.

It is time to change reality for the better.

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson

Mighty Athens: the free and beautiful city

Opened up to the world as it was in days long past when ships were not made of metal through the hard works of labour, and we had yet to grasp the stars from a new perspective through the eyes of science; Mighty Athens ‘the Free and beautiful city’ (city of all people) be opened to the world in the values attributed to her. For she once be the capital of the ancient world, responsible for rich art and culture, clever and wise philosophers and scientists and the home of all weary a distant traveller. Her city be the birth place of those setting sale to pursue the wisdom of the ancients, being the place by which mighty man, small in stature, came to teach the future generations the value of knowledge. It be the place of sexual freedom, the place where sex be embraced and not discounted. Where begotten lovers cast out for their differences came to call home, where they embrace in the naturalness of their being despite deformities; expressing and exchanging their passions for one another with word, touch and spiritual connection only known to lovers who have had their ships of hope burnt, only to seek repair in the heart of Mighty Athens. For we are beautiful within… the shell of the physical form that surrounds our soul does no way lay vestige claim on the beauty that resides behind the masks we wear. No matter how deep our sense of soul is, no matter how much cuts dealt upon the outer shell, no matter even how much taint we have on our hopes; beauty, no matter how cliché it may be, is true to self; it is this truth that Mighty Athens knows best of all. For Mighty Athens was the place of those seeking to lay claim to it, when their homes and their hopes had been destroyed by war, their banners burnt and their hopes tainted; it was Athens who gave them a new banner and new hope, for Mighty Athens knows all pain.

The Persian wars had given birth to her, though an old and mighty city Athens is, her form as known in culture was birthed by these wars. The mighty hordes led by King Darius of Persia and later his son Xerxes were both defeated by the combined forces and fleets of the Greek state. Under one banner, soldiers from both Ionia and Magna Graecia came together, (despite their differences) uniting to lead a rebellion against their occupiers. Men such as Aeschylus defeated the mighty Persians and liberated themselves from the control of the Persian Empire…. Athens was freed from her dormant state by the power of those willing to liberate themselves from tyranny; truly a value that has since lent itself to the birth of modern nations today. It was out of chaos that the state had been born! Pericles, greatest of statesman (holding leadership of mighty Athens after the 2nd Persian war) was elected by the people out of their free-choice and under him reigned a glorious age. The temples that had once laid on The Acropolis (the place at which mighty temples of the citadel had been) was burnt to the ground by Xerxes’ men at the close of the second Persian war, yet Pericles, in aching heart of this tragedy; erected out of the ashes the Parthenon, and other mighty structures such as the Propylaia and the Erechtheion, as symbols to the world. As if a mighty phoenix rose from the ashes with wings adorned for all to see, she came into being as the city of the people. Her physical form was cut but her beauty within had been true; and it was this beauty that remains to this day, she is truly the ‘universal city’! Representing to us a set of values of the highest order; those of liberty, equality, prosperity and the pursuit of wisdom, all of these values be attributable to the builders of the city, and to the protectors; the vanguards. Vanguards who stand aloft in the early morning hours, of mornings that have and that will be; weather not halting them, strife not weakening them, tragedy not dampening their spirits, they be strong alike, mighty and bold with courage immense; they be Gatekeepers, patrolling the borders of the city state on watch for the hordes that may lay siege. They are the ones keeping fair watch…In their hands Athens resides, in spirit for all of time.

We dream at night of glorious places that escape our world; we sail to distant shores yet to be travelled, we traverse high peaks yet to be climbed, we engage in laughter, embrace in moments yet to be experienced; we go away from the world we are living in to seek a better world. Happy dreams are built upon Athenian values; the values that escape these become our nightmares. When we spend time with those we love we are taking a value that is human, that is Athenian in nature. What makes us human is our ability to emphasise and articulate language that conveys ideas and emotions, to people that may not necessarily have those same ideas or emotions. In this regard children seem to hold highest the values of Athens, they do not see the masks that adults wear, they see what lay behind the mask; what they see is that which transcends the human form. The soul that leaks from an aching heart befallen tragedy and befallen exorbitant ruthlessness; children have no concept of boundaries that adults do, they care not for what banner one stands under, what civilization one comes from, what past one has. What they care about is the soul. In this regard children as young and naive as they maybe of the world, can teach us about ourselves; before the subsequent conditions that might change their views and incorporate them into regimes of iron. Learning from children can be as simple as looking in the mirror, some of us hold values that are childish, this is in no way bad, in fact, it maybe more beneficial if we hold onto these values. For the love and understanding of children, maybe an embodiment of that which we seek to have in our dreams. Athens represents humanity in its best position (it is humanity at its peak!), when it is not twisted to go on the values of tyranny, when it is not twisted to climb the ladder of power or embrace in ideologies that seek to embody a class of individuals rather than all individuals….Is not Athens the city we wish to return to?

The cornerstone by which these values rest upon is universal and holds strongly to a sense of common ownership (commonality) where boundaries are not seen, or divisions made. It is an outside look of the world as it is where nations are indivisible from one another, where anthems dedicated to one group of people against another cannot be heard; where the only thing that can be seen is a spinning globe a drift in the blackness of space. When we seek to erase those boundaries between ‘us’ and ‘them’, we create a universal state of ‘we’. This is what it means to look to Athens; it is to look to a world where we are one. Allowing people to become aware of this sense of commonality makes a great deal of difference to how we view the world. We all have attributes that are different to one another; we all speak different languages, all belong to different races and ethnicities, we all have different beliefs and ideologies, we all hold to different perceptions of the world we live in. Yet when we focus on what makes us different, conflict is more likely to arise; it is more important for us to focus on what we have in common, rather than seek out the differences between one another. In times of great strife the power to come together can be the only thing stopping two groups from annihilation. In conflicts that rage on between two groups of people, one insisting they have ownership of this land and one insisting that they also have ownership over that same land; the important thing to realise is that the land they fight over is a part of the world, and those two different groups of people both occupy the same world, they therefore share something in common. The more common things that can be found, the more chances of erasing that divide which exists among the two warring groups. Flags are held up by many nations as things to be desired, one might belong to this nation and feel proud of belonging, but is that person not just proud for that sense of commonality? What is a nation but just a group of people who unite around a set of common values? Should we then not focus on what divides, and instead focus on what unites?

Where dreams become foundations of the world of tomorrow, we should dream for each other rather than for neither other. When we seek places beyond that which is, we seek out Athens and all she is. We place down all our dreams in her, for she is us, and we are her; she is what we long to be and in her we see, that which should be. Love should not be concealed especially when we are a part of a world that longs for the richness of universal love and desperate appeal; liberty be not kind but she be fair and we should be inclined to not bind her by chains of tyranny nor chains of apathy, we should instead seek to defend against fiends who would wish to do so. By equality in her wake will give rise to prosperity and in this prosperity all can seek to lay claim to, for she is the dream by which we lay the foundation of tomorrow upon…she is where we long to be.

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson

Dissecting Thought: NOMA and religion: a naturalist perspective

Question Discussed:

-Is religion and science compatible? (Is faith compatible with science?)

The notion that religion and science are compatible is simply incorrect, religion and science are not compatible, they both explore means of understanding the world in different lights, religion in a different light to science; both express notions of what is, and both define the world differently (science in the light of evidence, religion in the light of revelations). This creates tension, as religion does interfere in scientific inquiry and science in religiosity. It is this contention as well the conclusion drawn from this that makes the NOMA model proposed by Stephen Jay Gould, simply impossible. It is the interest of this piece to express why this is and to explain the reasons why it is this way. So let us begin.

interesting it is to explore the pages of history especially that of natural history and the subsequent individuals involved in its making. History whose pages express the vast theories and scientific discoveries of the early Greek scientists, the first of the many natural philosophers to take upon a cosmic perspective of the universe, and investigate the physical dimension of reality, as opposed to the yearnings of illusory Images made from those physical entities trapped within it. The philosophers and researchers who mapped out the stars, discovered the atom, how the planets rotated and so on. Natural history is a very interesting subject to do research into; it was in this research that one (such as myself) found well looking up the origins of life, Palaeontologist Stephen jay Gould’s essay titled “NOMA” written in march 1997. It was at best to the reader (such as me) something of a no-show “Is this a pandering to religion?” having read this in 2013, it still makes good taste for discussion. So what better way to share those thoughts then in a piece on the subject matter? As mentioned before the essay was published by Stephen Jay Gould in March 1997 and can be found in “Leonardo’s mountains and the diet of worms” (1998) book (as well as “rock of ages”). At the time of the release of the essay, there was still dormant much less criticism it would seem of evolution and biology by the religious then there is today. In the essay Gould captures this brilliantly with a discussion that he had in 1984 well speaking with Jesuit priests in the Vatican well attaining a meeting on stellar science. He mentions how the Jesuit priests found it hard to believe that there was something as ridiculous as “creation science” or “Intelligent design”, even remarking to Gould that Evolution did not lay doubt in their faith. The essay expands on this discussion and the subsequent investigation of Pope John Paul the 2nd remarks in favour of evolution (1996). Yet the heart of the essay deals with the question “Is faith compatible with science?” (Though not in those words directly), a very interesting question to ask and an even more interesting way Gould answered it. In this essay Gould expresses the argument that religion and science are both mutually compatible with one another, and even essential to complement one another. He summarized this contention in the view that science and religion operated different realms of teaching authority (or “Magisterium” in Latin, plural “Magisteria”) and thus were both compatible and did not come into conflict with one another. This gave rise to the principle of NOMA (non-overlapping magisteria) that argues both realms do not overlap with one another. The reason for this conclusion rests at the principle that…

“No such conflict should exist because each subject has a legitimate magisterium, or domains of teaching authority-and these magesteria do not overlap…The net of science covers the empirical universe; what it is made of (fact) and why does it work this way (theory). The net of religion extends over questions of moral meaning and value. These two magisterial do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry…“ (Natural History, Stephen Jay Gould, 1997)

NOMA has since then been used as a Segway by both prominent religion and science individuals to express the given neutrality (or alluded) neutrality between the two teaching authorities. Very much to the contention of many this attempted neutrality was been brisked and promoted (however one suspects for different motives then broadly accustomed to; for instance at the time in the USA the “creationist” movement was starting to lay a significant problem to science education, throughout the essay to the rest of the world evolution was a settled thing. Yet in the united states, protestant fundamentalism was gaining traction, so what would be a way to solve this by promoting the example of NOMA that faith and science were compatible, it could work…right?) Later in that same year astronomer and author Carl Sagan took this essay to the Vatican (even the Catholics had no issue with NOMA, given that not too long ago they were the ones burning those who promoted ‘wack’ theories) as (which one can only say) a sign of good “faith” between the two sides. Yet over fifteen years since the paper’s publication (and subsequent republication in the New York Times in 1998) and almost twelve years since the death of Stephen Jay Gould, this principle still raises much discussion and much criticism (as one can imagine if one is really were to put two forces on equal footing). Theologians, cosmologists, astrophysicists, authors, polemicists, rhetoricians and other academic and amateur individuals have expressed either disdain for NOMA or reverence of its notion. For the interest of this piece, the focus will be put on the principle of NOMA and on the subsequent question “Is religious faith compatible with science?” What will be explored is the epistemological conflict that exists between religious faith and scientific inquiry, the metaphysical naturalism that underpins methodological naturalism and the subsequent contrast to that of the theological underpinnings that reside with religious faith, the political ideology surrounding religion, moral argument, with the final verdict being made that religious faith and science both overlap with one another (P1-P4), and thus both magesteria will and in fact, do come into conflict with one another. This is made known beforehand as to provide a structured approach to the NOMA principle and to the question and baggage that it carries whenever it is discussed by contemporaries of either religion or science.

Now one must express at most that the notion that faith (that which will not submit to reason, change, or evidence and instead trust superciliously to the bitter end) is compatible with science (that which uses reason, logic and evidence to explore the reality of the universe, in the means that it is and revising always closer to a better understanding) is simply misleading. There is very much a conflict, and it is between two different means of acquiring knowledge; science on the one hand uses means of investigation of the natural paradigm of existence in order to come to understanding of the world. Knowledge is acquired through justifying one’s beliefs, and this justification for science and for rational individuals’ comes in the form of evidence that goes beyond PBB (proper basic beliefs, common axioms of philosophy), this evidence comes from the natural paradigm of existence. A deeper understanding allows for a deeper knowledge of the world around you, this is what natural philosophy (methodological & metaphysical naturalism) seeks to do. Faith deals with different means of acquiring knowledge this of course is different for every religion, but the general summation usually goes in the tone that some sort of divine revelation permitted by a deity is the means by which knowledge is acquired. Others mandate faith in a deity (ies) as central to acquiring knowledge of the world, this means in most cases believing the ancient writings of nomadic tribesmen, prophets and speakers for faith. The great monotheisms (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism) promote the path to knowledge as one of divine revelation, this being through the written testaments of prophets of classical antiquity who had trust and devotion to God(s), who were revealed to them. When one seeks to come to knowledge of the world through two different means, they will conflict with one another, and religion does that with science. Religion claims all answers, or paths to answers through its doctrinal teachings, science seeks to explore the world by the use of the natural sciences to come to knowledge by the justification of beliefs. If one seeks but to believe the word of the leaders as to attain knowledge that most certainly will come into conflict with the epistemic line that knowledge is acquired through inquiry and investigation as opposed to faith and divine revelation. This is but the first point as to why both science and religion are not compatible, and do overlap with their alleged “separate realms of teaching authority”. Yet there is a further note to be raised here, the epistemological conflict that rests with acquiring knowledge from different means (natural philosophy versus theology) is impossible, there is only one means by which to acquire knowledge and that has to do with justification of beliefs and the means by which we do that is through not just empirical means but rational means that all spring from the physical (natural paradigm of existence) realm of inquiry; through an investigation of what is as opposed to what we wish, knowledge can and most emphatically “is” acquired through the means of investigation; something that faith does not permit, as faith is the belief without proof, any definition is but a corruption of this meaning for all people who now use the word “faith” use it as a means of “undying trust” which again raised even more issues. Some of these issues lay in the stark contrast at how these two different realms approach learning. Religion and the notion it rests on which is “faith in God(s)” (speaking about monotheism strictly here, pantheism, and other forms of henotheism and polytheism diverge on different aspects that one could consider not faith but simple equivocation of trust with faith) has a negative view towards learning, anything that is not in benevolence of the deity is “poisonous” to it and thus should not be even approached. The major issue this stirs is confirmation bias, science holds to the notion of peer review and scrutiny; something that is completely opposite to religion! The approach to learning and knowledge from religion goes in direct conflict with the means by which science approaches learning and knowledge; and thus the magisteria overlap.

Science as mentioned already, is natural philosophy, and as so is under the presuppositions of metaphysical naturalism. Now there must be a note here, and that is methodological naturalism uses the means of the natural sciences and the tools of humanity to investigate the natural realm, and in principle is different to metaphysical naturalism which insists that the natural realm is all there is and thus works on specific laws that are unchanged; things such as supernatural entities and the supernatural realm cannot exist, as anything in the natural realm of existence is in reality; as reality is anything that is in existence within the natural. For if the supernatural realm existed with entities capable of amazing feats, then they would have to exist in the realm of nature, and that would then demote them from the status of gods, to normal material entities with abilities explainable to science. For if they existed outside existence, they would not exist at all, so terms such as “non-temporal” are but baseless claims. Methodological naturalism only concerns itself with investigations of the natural realm (that is it). Methodological naturalism however comes from the basis of metaphysical naturalist thought and thus has similar presuppositions 1) The future will be the same as the past 2) the natural laws govern the cosmos and everything within it 3) on the premises of these laws nature can be explored and knowledge of the known universe justified 4) the empirical method is the best means of attaining knowledge of the natural realm (and so on). These presuppositions are both current in methodological and metaphysical naturalism and thus are the basis of science. Religion works differently, it works on theology and the various means by which to secure, protect and validate the faith at the centre of the religion. In monotheism (specifically) Christianity has a religious text, as does Judaism and Islam, all of these texts are professed to be the spoken word of the deity who allegedly created the universe and all within it (through different means and so on). Theology is a means by which the various revelations that the writers of those religious holy text, can be understood in means of allowing a suitable framework for the faiths to have organization leading to active worship and dedication by those faithful. Religion lays origins to the supernatural as opposed to science who lays its origins to the cosmos (the natural), religion wishes to say that the natural arose through means of the supernatural and thus the world can be explained through the supernatural well science wishes to say that life arose from the natural and can be explained through the natural. As one can see both realms are again in conflict. A very good example is expressed in the NOMA document about the discussion that was sparked over the “evolution versus creationism” debate going on in America.

Now the theory of evolution is a well-established scientific process that explains the origin of species and the vast diversity within life, this includes individual organisms, DNA, proteins, molecules and species; a theory stating that organisms (and the all other aforementioned subjects) adapt to environmental pressures thrust upon them by nature actively selecting the best of those organisms to pass adaptation characteristics to other generations over successive generations. Those species thus will have greater chances of reproducing their genes in the gene pool and surviving their environment. Different environments mean different adaptations, and it is these adaptations over time that lead to the vast complexity we have today; random mutation (so far as we know it to be) will occasionally occur with a species giving it certain characteristics that may or not be useful. It is thus all species and all of life holds a common ancestry with one another, a “universal ancestor(s)”. This theory proposed by Alfred Wallace and revolutionized by Charles Darwin is not only factual but has like all good scientific theories the margin of predictability and determination. On the opposite side of the “argument” (not really being a serious danger) is intelligent Design, the simple notion that all of life is too complex and intricate and must therefore have a designer. Both ID and evolution deal with the field that NOMA states science should have dominion over, and it is this point that I raise that religion seeks to impose over science’s ability to accurately explain the natural realm, ID is just another argument thrown out by the religious community to try (and successfully is falling in support) and bring religion into the scientific class room. ID is not science it is pseudo-science, it does not hold to an accurate model of predictability, no explanatory value, no margin for experimentation it is just an assertion based on ignorance, speculation and psychological need and thus is not a valid (in any form) scientific theory.

One more point that needs to be raised is the political ideology that surrounds religion, unlike science which has no dogma (and to all those shouting ‘scientism’, there is simply no such thing, the whole notion of scientism is a philosophical pandering to religious critics who are saw that religion is being denigrated from social sphere of influence and now heading out with astrology, alchemy and all the other means by which our infant species came to first understand the world) as if it did it would not change for anything, unlike religion, science revises itself constantly finding better and more efficient ways of exploring the cosmos. Scientists spend long hours, and constant research that then will be peer reviewed and scrutinized vigorously; to say science is dogmatic is a pandering to religious paranoia. Scientists actively revise their thoughts in light of new evidence, always seeking to follow the evidence where it leads and making sure that what the findings they get are accurate. It is in this light that science (and one will have to repeat for sceptics) holds to no dogma and political ideology. Religion on the other hand holds sternly to the notion of not revising its dogmas, organizing collectively the downward notion that man is the subject to the gods. The purpose of this life (monotheism specifically) is to worship the deity and prepare for the next life, it is thus in this notion that religion holds a very stern (and has held a very stern) notion against progression. It silenced Galileo when he proposes that geocentricism was wrong. It burned those who dare question its dogma, killing individuals who spoke out against the church, imposed itself against the rights of women and the rights against LGBT. It continues to impose itself against the individuals rights, in places such as Iran Homosexuals are hung for committing sodomy, apostates are killed for denouncing Islam, homosexual and lesbian individuals are not allowed their fundamental liberties (in places such as Australia, their still exists excessive bigotry from the liberal government, with their obvious Christian conservatism). Religion holds an active political ideology to instigate control over civil society, and it has shown to do this time and time again. Religion as it stands has no interest in progression, whereas science is interested in progressing knowledge, religion is not, it stands at every single step of the way for scientific inquiry. Its supporters adamantly detest any inquiry as to go against religious dogma and doctrine, always trying to lay claim to scientific revolutions and twisting the light of reality to the illusory images promulgated by religious doctrines.

The final point that will be raised is the issue of NOMA’s principle, Religion is said to have teaching authority over meaning and morality, which Stephen Jay Gould fails to realise that what he instead is instigating is moral philosophy. Science can study human behaviour and morality and meaning have to do with human behaviour so in this aspect science does and can comment on alleged “religious concerns”. Religion is not in complete authority of meaning, science can explain the physical world and what is, but why cannot it comment on the why? Different cultures of religiosity have different meanings; in Buddhism (which is a philosophy and not a religion) reaching a state of Nirvana is considered fulfilment of the individuals’ inner sanctum. In Christianity meaning is found with a faith in God and an active serving of him, this may involve attending church spreading the gospel and preparing for the next life. Religion in these respects is not interested in finding meaning at all! Instead it wants to give you the meaning, science is different. In science the main understanding is to grow a greater understandings of the workings of natural existence, in these respects science wishes to find answers to unanswered questions involving the natural realm. Stephen jay Gould expresses that religion deals with “taking people to heaven” whereas science deals “discovering heaven”. This of course fails to realise that religion in most respects was our first aspect of discovering the world around us, the first ways at which to understand the world. Moral philosophy is different to religion, yes religion will deal in aspects of moral philosophy such as the origins of morality and what is moral. But science can provide means of finding efficient ideas about the true nature of morality, and can document (not yet, still a work in progress) where morality comes from, its use, the ideal system of morality and so on. In this respects Science (science of morality) does come into conflict and does overlap Religions alleged “teaching authority” (magisterium).

So what can be said so far in conclusion? Is faith compatible with science? Does NOMA work? In short the answer is no. Faith and science do come into conflict at a fundamental level, both deal in ways of attaining knowledge of the world, the one relies on divine revelation and unwavering trust in a deity for knowledge and the other deals with inquiry and revision into the realm of the natural. Faith deals with the belief in the supernatural, and science deals with investigation into the natural, which is all there is. The margin for belief and faith in a deity dwindles as scientific inquiry progresses, resulting in an ever dwindling regression to the point at which the need for faith and the supernatural inevitably become null and void. Faith undermines learning and progression, as religion seeks to avail a constant monopoly over the “Truth”, which is never changing and never growing unless with the deities’ permission (or the dear leaders of the sects’ permission) whereas science is interested in investigation and inquiry into the world always ready to progress and learn more about the cosmos. The underpinning aspects that science holds onto, the metaphysical natural perspective and has inevitably no draw of the supernatural aspect that religion plays to, as to the natural philosopher the supernatural realm just cannot exist as it would underpin science itself. Religion holds to a political ideology that undermines the individual’s right to his body, his voice and to his mind, whereas science holds no such constraints and no such dogma. The final nail in the coffin as to why science and faith do not work as well as the NOMA principle is because science can explain meaning and morality, and religion is not interested in pandering to progression and discovery more interested in the already pre-made product. Non-overlapping magesteria, the principle that religion and science hold to two different realms of teaching authority and thus do not overlap is simply not true and it is because of this fact that the model fails completely; as there is a conflict. The fact of the matter is (in the perspective of this writer) religion needs to die for progression and science to truly take off; across the globe there are quasi-religious states, with religion undermining the rights of the individual and pandering to the illusions of grandeur who seek not peace and not acceptance but seek separation and control. It is this reason as well as all the aforementioned reasons why religion and science can never truly be compatible with one another, and it is this understanding that only one is permissible and for this writer that has to do with the naturalist perspective, as it, is the only perspective truly valid. All others are pandering to the illusory psychological needs of the individuals. It may sound abrupt and it may sound prejudice but it is the truth, an inconvenient truth.

Knowledge is power

Use it

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson

Knowledge Blast: Understanding atheism

We all at some point in our life when discussing religion or some aspect of belief, will be asked the trivial yet important question, “Do you believe in a God?”. To some the answer is “yes”, to others the answer is “no” and then there are those (especially igtheists), that question the meaning of the word, “God”, which they argue needs first to be defined before any enlisted answer can be provided. Generally to those who answer this question with a “yes”, they are presumed to have an active belief in that God and they are generally referred to as a “Theist” (an individual who holds a belief in a Deity); to those who answer with “No”, they are generally referred to as “Atheist” (an individual who are without a belief in a Deity or ‘lack a belief’ in one.). These are the only two positions when it comes to belief in a God, you either are actively believing in one (or many) making you a theist (or any branch attached to it) or you do not actively believe in a God, making you an atheist. Simple is it not? Yet some people, even academics, seem to be fine with theism but not atheism…why is that? Let’s find out shall we.

We are all born not believing in any notion particularly associated with a God/Gods; implicit atheism, is what we all are born with. We all are born with an absence of belief in a God/gods, this is the default state of belief for every child born into this world. Generally the notion of a God is introduced via cultural means; either one will learn it from parents, learn it in a religious studies class and so on. No matter where we learn the term it is still introduced from the culture we are born into, if not, another culture, but culture none-the-less. It is only when faced with the notion, that one can either accept it (with good merit and reason; as no one chooses to believe or not believe in anything, they are brought good reason as to either reject or accept the notion, this goes for the god notion as well) or reject it (with good merit or reason etc); however it should be noted that before the introduction of the notion, the default stance is non-belief i.e. atheism. When one rejects the notion of a God, with whatever reason or argument; they are enacting explicit atheism, which is the active rejection of belief in a God/gods (disbelief). Agnosticism (the epistemological position concerned with whether we can know a notion to exist or not) can be associated with atheism; as agnosticism concerns knowledge (a subset of belief) well atheism concerns belief itself. One may ask the question how this is possible, in which the reply can be that atheism rejects the belief in the notion of a God/gods, well agnosticism concerns itself on whether that notion of God/gods can be known at all to exist. Agnostics may wish to distance themselves away from atheists but the fact is this; if one actively believes in a God they are a theist (or any branch of theism) if one does not believe in a God, they are an atheist. There is no middle position when it comes to belief, either belief or non-belief, they cover all positions. Agnosticism is thus not mutually exclusive to atheism, rather it is compatible with atheism; as it concerns (and here it will be repeated) itself with whether we can know a God to exist at all, whereas atheism concerns itself with lack of belief in that notion, not on whether it exists or not.

“This is where the difference between ‘Agnostic’ and ‘Atheist’matters: Theism and Atheism deals with belief. Gnosticism and Agnosticism deals with knowledge. Gnostic think they KNOW the existence/nonexistence of a god, agnostics claim to not know. Theists and Atheists can be on either sides of that, were they believe or not believe in a god while also either claim to know or not know for certain if that belief is true. There are agnostic atheists, agnostic theists, gnostic atheists and gnostic theists.”-Fooly’s Mind

Positive atheism is where the problem resides, it is the explicit or strong conviction that a God/gods do not exist. This is what most anti-theists (or those actively who hold a disdain for religious beliefs.) hold when they refer to their atheism. Negative atheism includes all forms of irreligion or non-belief, from the absence of a belief in a God/gods and so on. Both positive and negative atheism are but two side to the same coin, they are both ways of defining non-belief or “atheism” (as already mentioned); they are both varying degrees of the same thing such as the case with hot water and warm water. The problem really resides around those who look from the outside into atheist thought, they may have the tendency to view it as a religion (which, if so makes them under a grievant misapprehension) by the way it may conduct itself in the world; it may be called “dogmatic” or by more ‘sower opponents’ as “dogmatic as religion”. Yet, let one dispense with the critics; to all those who do not believe in a God for whatever reason, you are an atheist. One can take this as a breach of one’s ‘personal beliefs or lack of’ but that is the fact. It is more common to see fellow atheists criticize atheism itself by the way many who hold to the title may act. Yet, many may hold to their non-belief as ‘a means to an end’ or may promote it, however the case it must be noted that atheism should only be considered a block of non-belief. It should not press issues, it should not be given so much attention as it has been given (this goes for theism to); it should not be even mentioned. Now this may seem strange given the previous words and advocation in the last couple sentences of this piece, but let me explain what I mean. Atheism, as already mentioned almost countless of times before, is simply “the lack of belief in a God/gods” that would be the end of it, yet so many individuals have labelled those who do not believe in their god as being ‘atheist’, this is why the word exists at all! And for this reason it is important that those who do hold onto the word must understand why it exists, and what it means now. What atheism means today is the stance against oppression; the stance of those willing to not be contempt in their thinking, it is the stance against those willing to die for their belief; for the word ‘atheist’ may be a ‘means to an end’ for some, to others it is simply another way of promoting defiance when needed and the stance against oppression (this is not an over-exaggeration of the word either, given its history, atheism has been on the receiving end of tremendous intolerance). Yet, It does not affect political beliefs (not by itself), what one does when he gets up in the morning, It is the starting block. Those who live their life as if there is no notion of a God existing are known as practical atheists or apatheists, and one can say that there are a great deal of practical atheists in both the non-religious and religious circles.

Nietzsche gives an important note on belief in God as “not being necessary any longer”; does one see those who believe in a God, when crossing the street, look both ways? Yes. It seems that everyone now in the modern age lives as if there is no God. Believers put on their seat belts, look both ways well crossing the road; they live their lives as if the belief in God is not necessary. Putting the cross on, on Sundays, and flipping it upside down on Mondays. the notion that is often promoted by believers is the façade “You need god to have meaning in your life” but what is the gross double standard they are setting? Atheism, is the underpin of all religions, no one actively believes in a God twenty fours a day, seven days a week, do they? Of course not! If one really had to do a study on the amount of “prefaced believers” in this world one could almost certainly say that the numbers of “real believers” would be “0”; as no one actively can believe in a notion every hour of every day.

New atheism, (a movement started from the post years of 9/11, popularly called a movement by the media) Is a movement set on the notion that; religious belief should be held to the same criticism as any other belief, and it should not be given respect just because of its own sake this means it must be laid to the same standard amount of scrutiny as any other subject. “The End of faith” and “Letters to a Christian nation” (2004) can be credited as the books that started the movement. This breed of atheism is a prolific atheism the kind at which wishes to dispense with religion. Yet, despite such vitriol by the religious to this “new” form of atheism, it must be noted, that if the religious think their views are untouchable and thus cannot be scrutinized; then let it be said that such “privileged delusion” needs to be quelled effective immediately. New atheism does not attack the belief in God per-seas, then it attacks what the belief in God does to individuals; atheists who are a part of this movement do not care what the individual believes in, they care about what the individual does with that belief. This is why the aim in recent times has been for social justice and equality, to replace organized belief that demands it cannot be criticized, with practical humanism. To dispense with the notion, that you need a God to find meaning and happiness, that the universe can only have come from a deity and morality could only be dispensed by a deity; is to dispense with the final hook that holds man in his infancy. The modern atheist movement seeks to show that individuals can indeed be good without God, find meaning in their lives, and gain a greater understanding of the world through enquiry. New atheism brings with it, not just atheism, but secularism, humanism, liberalism, gender equality and the slogan “Good without God”. They argue that “Religion and the belief in the supernatural have crippled society, crippled the need for enquiry and scepticism, resulting in the overall denigration of progress among humanity and thus must be made rid of as soon as necessarily possible.” Religion as it stands has morphed into a form of practical humanism, and any good that the religious hold, is in fact a goodness of humanism and the two are not to be confused with one another. Science and healthy scepticism is overall better than an impermeable faith in a God, this in a sense, can be summed up as the movement’s main aim; which is to push the need for religion out of society.

What is the point of a belief in God, when individuals who preface such a belief as being the “be-all-to-end-all”, are not even acting as if there is a God in their daily life? This incipient need to believe in that which, at the end of the day, does nothing overall to affect one’s character; is useless. If one harbours any form of belief or disbelief for not any good particular reason or any particular justification, it can be said that such individuals have no reason to be who they proclaim they are. Those who wish to keep their belief for the sake of security and moral fulfilment, need to realise that they are holding onto to the notion of a God for the sake of psychological need, and not because of whether it is true or not. Belief in anything is acquired through substantial evidence to prove and good reason to accept that evidence’s notion, non-belief comes as a default from not finding that evidence substantial and zero reason to believe in the notion. This is with all claims, we believe because we have substantial evidence to provide good reason, which is the standard ‘evidence’. Without evidence in the form of justification to believe in any notion that departs from justification, no matter sincere, is done so for stupid reasons. No amount of belief in the prospect of any notion makes that notion so. Every adult and child has to come to this realisation that you only believe in something because of justification and good reason, and you stop believing in something when the notion or belief departs from that. This is why non-belief will always be the default when it comes to notions like God(s), anyone who says otherwise has no idea what he or her are talking about. No one chose to not believe in anything, as they did to believe in something, they were given good reason to believe, and zero reason not to believe, it was not an active “oh I’ll decide not to believe” or ‘I’ll start to believe” are brains do not work like that, and it is naïve to think they do.

Every individual expressing their belief in any form of matter will need to know this when talking to an atheist of any sort unless to foolishly lump an atheist into a camp or an ideology he/she is not a part of. Though criticism (valid ones) have been made by people like Sam Harris, who say non-belief should not be given a label, just like not believing in Zeus should not be given the label “A-zuesist”. Valid criticisms like these do highlight the point that labels do carry baggage, sometimes unwanted baggage. For example, when theists use the argument that atheists are immoral because Stalin was an atheist, and he killed in the name of no God. Though this argument (if it can be called that and not a grievance whine) is not true, Stalin was indeed an atheist, but he had other motivations for doing the things he did that are too multiple to mention here. This goes for both atheist and theist a like who make claims that certain “bad guys” in history killed because of their faith or lack of it, must remember that there are a lot of facts that go into each event and each context, that it has become naïve to try use the Crusades to lump the evils of Christianity, or communism to lump the evils of atheism and so on. Ladies and gentlemen from across the aisle, hear me when I say that the only way we are going to unite, is if we dispense with belief being a dividing block on issues (this may be hypocritical given the amount of things that I write against “organized religion”, but that can be justified as I am against social injustice perpetrated by theocratic fascists) we should try to help one another and care for the merit of arguments alone, and not on whether they are uttered by a believer or a non-believer. We should love all despite what they believe, and only hold them accountable for their actions. This is why one has to say that humanism is the greatest uniter of both non-believer and believer, and that is what we should all aim for, a state by which we can obtain some form of unity based on humanism.

Knowledge is Power

Use it

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson

Knowledge Blast: Dangers of fanaticism and fundamentalism

Most likely you are reading this sentence in the 21st century with some form of technological device, be it a mobile phone, computer, mac, tablet etc. The device you use has been acquired through the years, through means of trial and error, as well as innovation on the part of the designated inventor; coming up through experimentation, new technology and new ways of using that technology. It can be said with no shadow of a doubt that the person who has been responsible for the invention of the gadget you use, had to have been progressive in thought. Now what does one mean when he says “progressive in thought”? What is meant by that is, for anything new or innovating to come about you need to have an open mind and a will to be able to change and adapt your ideas into new ones. That is how progress works; Individuals pursuing their separate interests and changing their ideas when they find new ways of adapting them. Every single inventor does this; he takes concepts of the old and adapts it to the new. What would happen if inventors and innovators didn’t adapt to the change and progression of time? Then what? Well, dear reader, let us just say you wouldn’t be reading this now…would you?

It is imperative for change to take place; it just needs to happen in order for us to reach new and better ways at accomplishing things. Fundamentalism, the immovable notion that you are to remain true and undying to original ideas and not be susceptible to change or adaptation is a genuine threat to humanity. The threat of fundamentalist minds ever opposed to change, taking away the means for others to progress in view of retelling old ideas without sway to new ones. It’s insane! Fundamental ideas are retold to newer generations; no progression, no interest in adaptation to the world around. Such ideas become delusions to outsiders but perfectly normal to insiders. The notion that the earth is the center of the universe, and all those who believe in that notion, are deluding themselves by denying the reality of what modern science has shown to be accurate. Those who still hold onto notions that somehow their existence is the “be all to end all”; are deluding themselves in a false ideology that has serious implications on their livelihood and on the possible future of the children they will teach this idea to. Fundamentalist theology is the biggest proponent for ignorance in the modern world, a naive view of the world that puts the subject viewing it as the centre of all things. Whether it be Christian, Islamic, Judea or any form of rigid orthodoxy that is opposed to scientific advances, and thus opposed to change; we can call such opposition fundamentalist in nature, and it is a direct threat to humanity’s progression in the modern era. Fundamentalism in religious sense holds to orthodoxy, it is very opposed to change or revision, or any other sort of notion on those lines; as a result most fundamentalist religious individuals will oppose scientific findings, refuse to teach their children these findings, and will hide behind the clause of “freedom of religion”. Now what does one mean when he says “Fundamentalist ideas”, what that means, is all ideas opposed to reality (notions, of creationism, virgin births, etc.) all notions that seek to enlist views that are outside that which can be justified rationally. One may say, “Is that not a “fundamentalist idea in itself?” The retort would be, “Science is ever changing and revising itself to reach objective standards that are in accordance to what reality shows to be so, and for this notion to be considered fundamentalist it would not be susceptible to change, which it is; and thus it is not fundamentalist in nature”

However there is an even greater danger in our modern day society, with the death of religious traditionalism and the rise of secularism, there is but one thing left for fundamentalists to do. Become fanatical. When fundamentalists become fanatical, this is where the real danger starts to happen. The Islamic terrorists who flew Boing 747’s into the twin towers on September 11th 2001, were fanatics hell bent on starting war on the “Infidels”, by following the Quran; their leader Osama Bin Laden, sought to establish an Islamic empire and defeat the “Judea and Samaritan Zionists”, this ideology we call today is known as “Bin ladenism”. And it is fundamental fanaticism like this that leads to devastating consequences. In Islamic nations under sharia law, women are denied the right to learn and be educated, property of their husbands; this kind of religious zealously and fanaticism is but on example of the dangerous of religious fundamentalism and fanaticism. Yet, this is not the fundamentalism I’m sure most of you reading this may be exposed to in your daily life, how about that of Christian fundamentalism.

Creationism VS Evolution, pseudo-science vs science; since the time of Darwin most of Europe and most of literate scientific nations have taken on board the scientific theory of natural selection. Yet in the USA, (the largest economic nation besides china) a campaign pronged by the far fundamentalist Christian right has been opposing evolution, in favour of creationism. Answers in Genesis, and other such pseudo-science websites and advocacy groups have (since 2001) running campaigns to get evolution out of the science classroom in favour of religious ideology. This has sparked prominent figures such as Richard Dawkins and the rest of the scientific community have leaded a counter-attack against this wave of fundamentalism. Yet it does not end there, in most western nations and in most secular nations across the globe religious fundamentalism is protected by the constitution with the “Freedom of religious worship and practise” and such acts being embedded in the fabric of secular constitutions. Now this is no problem at all, however most religious fundamentalists will teach their children their fanatical ideas; and that is the real problem. The scientific departments across the globe have to deal with these fundamentalists in later years, who will repeat the ideological furrier. Now it would be fine if these individuals weren’t the ones effecting public policy; for instance human rights such as abortion and homosexual relations, are opposed to by mostly if not entirely right wing and religious bodies. Christian fundamentalists will sight their bible when it comes to such issues of human rights. Calling it “unnatural, wrong”, such hateful (and I do stress hateful) language that does effect the youth and those struggling with love.

Let it be said and repeated, that those who so chose to love their partner (whether it be of the same sex or a different sex), are entitled to the liberty to love and marry freely; entitled to express their love openly without the vitriol of religious zealots or the bigotry of right wing fundamentalists. This liberty is not exclusive to those in homosexual relations, but to all relations; let it be protested that he who should ever make their decree on the basis of a religious text, on the basis of a bigoted text. Should be scoffed, mocked and protested against, if not for the liberty of love but for the future of the next generation and the future of humanity. Let it be said that those who are religious and progressive, this charge is not directed at you, but to those along the same cloth who fundamentally willingly opposed to human rights, education and the future of humanity; this charge is lead against you, on behalf of progressive humanity. Fundamentalism and fanaticism are the poisons that corrupt progressive societies, and if should one protest to say that “this here sentiment is fundamentalist in nature”, let it be said yet again that “this sentiment is lead in progressive manner and is forever changing; adapting and evolving to the benefit of humanity and its understandings of the cosmos.” Terrorists, who seek to establish their fanatical doctrines on free people of the world, should remember that where there is just one ounce of human spirit, there will always be those willing to stand up and fight against such wickedness and indecency; not just for themselves but for their fellow man. Those who beat and those who shout others down on the basis of what their ideology or their text dictate to them, are the real danger to humanity; the real threat to humanity is not weapons of mass destruction but those willing to use them, the fundamentalists and fanatics willing to do anything to see their ideology the only one and all others destroyed are the real danger. Parents willing to deny their children liberty, will see themselves the contributors of the destruction of free-society, those who deny others liberty will see themselves criminals to free-society. Let it be said one last time, that for change to occur there must be freedom of thought, freedom of expression, the right to education, the right to free worship (lest of course it does not impact the moderation of others or their liberties), the right to love…these are to be protected, promoted, with the ever progressiveness of society for the better.

Knowledge is Power

Use it.

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson

Knowledge blast: Secular-Humanism

Society that devotes itself to the benefit of itself without the benefit to superficial sources, such as man made Gods and other such delusions of grandeur. Are generally considered to be secular. as secularism deplores religiosity and instigates, that one should hold indifference towards religion, and not promote any mandate of theocracy and religiosity on the people within society. Secularism is the separation of religious organizations from state or governmental institutions, it is the principal by which no government should run on the basis of religious dogmas or texts, and instead should run on an indifferent scale towards religion; not dealing with the sole bias of a single religion. Secularism works on the basis of ideas such as socialism, libertarianism and egalitarianism. Secular societies generally run on constitutions that have democratic leanings; such leanings give the individual the right of choice, and the liberty of ideals. such ideals include; freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of choice, freedom of press etc. These ideals are called “liberties” as they are rights the people are privileged to have that do their best to work among society.

Humanism is closely related to secular thinking, as it denotes the value and emphasis of human interactions within the natural world. The idea of humanism ethically goes that reason and scientific inquiry within the natural plain of existence are more prevalent and more important then a belief of God or superficial sources. Purpose or value comes from the interaction between our species and the consideration of the world around us. Humanistic thinking takes the position that theology and anything to do with God or any form of grandeur is not necessary. To put into perspective here are a couple words on humanism that have been prepared.

“Every single interaction you have, say its with your mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, nephew, niece, granddad, grandma, son, daughter etc. Whether it be a shake of the hand, a kiss of the cheek, a conversation with loved ones, a last goodbye to an old friend. Those are the interactions that matter. Humans are a social species, that may appear at times to promote devastation and hatred towards one another; who hurt and may kill one another. who may lie, cheat, steal, ridicule or despise one another. These interactions regardless of whether they are good or bad, are actions we commit, and that we are responsible. We are responsible for the hate we show to one another, but we are also responsible for the love that we show to one another. Humanity, our species and the world we inhabit. This is us, and we are here, and whatever meaning we derive comes from this world we inhabit.

There is no one to shift the blame to, no one to point the finger for destruction and chaos; if it starts with us, it can end with us. we are responsible for everything we do! So many wish to throw burdens of guilt and responsibility to superficial sources in the hopes to forget their guilt, but realize this we are all responsible for things we do. We are responsible for the lives we lead, the smiles we make, the tears we cry. It is us…it is we, who make the discoveries known, it is us who end wars, it is us who cure diseases of our own making. We are the ones who build bridges of determination and ample them with the supports of visions and good wishes, it is us who clime the mountains. we are the ones who make meaning in our own lives, we are the ones who express love and hatred, laughter and tears. It is all us!

Altruism and doing good for goodness sake coupled with empathy are the means by which we show feeling towards one another, the emotions we emulate are understandings between ourselves and each other. Reason, which implore intuition and deduction allow us to reason the world we see and distinguish from what we see as a “good” act to what we deem a “bad” one. Just few of the principals by which we live. The call to a superficial God, is a call to childishness, a call to insecurity. We created the Gods in our image, and we painted them to resemble us and our selfish virtues. As people living in the now, with the world of billions, we have to start acting sensible towards one another for this is the life we lead. Scientific inquiry and seeking answers to questions about this world, implore us to go up and beyond our ability. To awe at the majesty of the universe we inhabit and evermore move forward over the cosmic event horizon and step into the unknown. For the sheer fact we can.

we are just one in millions of species on this planet, and though we should take priority to ourselves, we should also care about the world around us and the creatures that inhabit it. To be a humanist is to take on responsibility for your own mistakes, to be a humanist means to be a helper of your fellow man, as well as fellow beast; if they require help. These things are things of beauty that we can lay claim to, we don’t need a superficial delusion to create meaning in the life we bring meaning to. ”

Secular-humanism, puts society and the planet into perspective. To be a secular humanist, you just got to realize your potential and the potential around you. Not seeking the above magistrate that we at times wish to throw the blame and devote the love to. what you got to realize is the people around you need help, and that help comes from what you do, what you say. There’s a lot of people out there who don’t feel nice or fine, who have it tough and are wasting their lives on cons. As a Secular humanist, a naturalist, an individual living now, the greatest value I get is from interaction with people and the things I do. Taking full responsibility for my wrongs, and taking full ownership of my rights, for living life depends on what you do in the now. this life, this existence is the only thing we have, this is the point all secular humanists stress. You have one life, live it right, don’t live it ignorant of others, live it acknowledging your responsibility and your triumphs.

“Carpe Diem”

Seize the day

Not just for yourself, but those around you.

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson

The Power of the people: Experientia

It should not be any surprise that people can inspire people, in the pursuit of a better understanding of the world. That is why everyone should be able to teach the person next to him or her, something that they do not know. For ideas are meant to be spread, such as a wild fire, across the forest of potential. This the reason that one should devote themselves to that process, devote themselves to the spread of enlightenment, and to give people the realization that you are never to young or old to dream big. You are never to young or old, to give something to the world.

As people, we should all be teachers and educators, not in profession, but in society. Teaching those around us about ideas, concepts, philosophies, they yet have to realize. To combat ignorance, and grow knowledge. It is the desires of the Greeks before us, and should be our desire not just to grow in brain power, but in human interaction. And better ourselves to a more “progressive reality”; never being apathetic to poor living standards, and never witnesses to injustice and intolerance.

Knowledge thus in that sense, is truly powerful.

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson