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    Learning Bee

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  1. It is kind of ironical that when religious people say "science requires faith" or "secularism is a religion" they mean that as an insult.
  2. Oh, but there are a ton of great threads I have subscribed to, and keep going back to. They are not curriculum threads, and those discussions are priceless!
  3. I just happened to notice the quote in your siggy: For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love. ~Carl Sagan Beautiful and relevant I think.
  4. I can understand that feeling, because many of us, and certainly I have believed at one time that the vastness of the universe and the complexity of life had to mean there was an overarching "purpose and meaning". Realising that my belief was based not on objective evidence but rather my desire for it to be so helped me in fact to create meaning in the present moment. I would hope to leave the world a little bit better than I found it. Other than that I do not need a grand plan for the reason for my existence. I can understand the desire others have to find a greater meaning revealed, for life and pain and suffering to all finally make sense, to think of ourselves as pieces in a jigsaw puzzle and to want to see the final picture emerge. This desire, IMO, reveals both the insatiable curiosity and the hubris of humans. Considering the size of the universe, we are insignificant specks and yet we believe that somehow our existence has some meaning. Millions of animals are born, they live, they die and over a period of time they become extinct. Do their lives have some ultimate meaning? They have meaning for us humans and they probably have meaning for themselves and their friends and families. That is all that matters in the vast scales of space and time. Neuroscience is offering fascinating insights into the human brain. We really don't know half of what there is to know about how the brain works and how our sense of self is formed. Altering brain function can alter your personality and alter your memories, so I do not believe in the concept of an immutable "self" even when we are alive, much less when we are dead.
  5. Won't we all like more time? Even a religious person who believes in an afterlife, who believes that death would mean going to a "better place" would still like more time here on earth to spend with kids, to travel, to read more books and watch more movies. Of course we all would like more time, here right now, to make a difference in the lives of the people we love and to make our existence count.
  6. Irrespective of beliefs of theistic people, morality is a combination of several factors - higher brain capacity in animals giving rise to empathy and a sense of justice and a need for rules for living in harmony in a social setting. We humans have for a long time believed that we are unique among animals in our capacity for language, thought, problem solving, love, grieving over lost loved ones, sense of humour, etc. Research on animal behaviour is slowly but surely proving us wrong in almost every instance. Not to say that the human brain is not marvelous and incredible, but rudimentary aspects of all our capacities can be found in animals. Your example of dogs showing a sense of justice is interesting. I had not heard of that study, but there was a very similar study done on monkeys and video below demonstrating that study is hilarious to watch.
  7. Jackie, I do so love it when you post about what you do with your kids. I have a reluctant learner and your initial struggles with your ds resemble my own frustrations with my ds so much. I take inspiration from the way you have done school with him. Your posts on homeschooling often contain a wealth of information and I keep coming back to them again and again and again.
  8. I have been there. I have had a spiritual "Aha" moment that made me turn my life 100% in a different direction. But I have now reached a point in my journey where not only do I not feel the need to hold onto those religious beliefs anymore, but also can see how some of the ideas I professed were wrong. I think of spiritual understanding as peeling the layers of an onion. Each layer just takes you deeper and deeper into understanding. You cannot access inner layers until you peel the outer ones and everyone finds the "truth" in the layer that they are in.
  9. It is not cited as proof of God's non-existence, but rather as an example of theists' cognitive dissonance.
  10. I agree with Jen that atheists are not a unified group and that each of us has our own philosophy. So please know, that I am not speaking for all atheists but only for myself. I consider the problem of what we call evil, to be caused by human psychology. The very emotions that enabled our survival in the wild - anger and fear - are not as useful when living in a civilized society. They cause divisiveness and hatred and the desire to control others in order to protect ourselves. I think all faith traditions recognized this too, and most religions exhort their followers to eschew anger and fear in favor of love and courage. But this is not easy. Managing our emotions has to be learnt and not all families are equipped to teach their children the best way to cope with negative feelings. For many it takes years of practice, patience, maturity, experience and maybe even some therapy to get to a place where one can feel tranquility and joy in spite of negative provocations. So for me whenever I see evil being perpetrated, I feel sad for the victims, but I also a feel a tiny little bit sadness for the perpetrators. I may have been the only one in my country to have had tears in my eyes when I read the newspaper on the morning Ajmal Kasab was hanged. In some other forums I frequent, the overwhelming view among atheists seems to be that there is no objective standard for good. I agree only partly. I agree that what seems good today for our place in time, may not be so in future. For example the question of voluntary euthanasia. As medical treatments keep advancing and human life spans keep getting longer, there will I suppose sometime in the future arise the question of whether people should have the right to die. I don't know the answer. Another example is genetic modification of humans. I am sure future humans will grapple with far more complex issues than we can imagine now and as such the idea of *what is good* keeps changing. But on the other hand, I think there can be an objective standard for *how to decide what is good*. Most atheists use the golden rule when deciding matters of right and wrong, but I especially like on this when he says morality should be about maximizing well-being for the whole of human society. ETA: I did not read Albeto's post before responding, but it seems we cover pretty much the same ground in our responses and we have both linked to Sam Harris's TED Talk.
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