Tag Archives | Alternatives

The Politics of Belief

Aboriginal War Veterans Monument

Photo: Padraic Ryan (CC)

A tribal shaman was once interviewed by a skeptical anthropologist and asked whether or not he actually believed in the truths behind the spiritual medicine he practiced. The shaman’s reply was surprisingly candid, for he admitted that his technique was completely fraudulent, and yet he still defended it for the simple reason that it often seemed to heal the patients.  This brief exchange cuts to the core of the issue of why some people are religious and others are not. It all boils down to two simple questions – “Is it true?” and “Is it good?”

An atheist is someone who answers “no” to the first question, and usually (but not always), “no” to the second question as well. As such, there are a variety of tactics that atheists will employ in promoting arguments against religion. Charles Darwin, for example, was supposed to have been nudged permanently over the cusp into disbelief after having studied the behavior of a certain species of parasitic wasp.… Read the rest

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A World of Religion

In honour of the recent “world’s largest” gathering of atheists in Washington D.C, a reminder of their place in the great scheme of things — there are less than 150 million of them at last global count:

Religion

Still beats the Wiccans, Bahai’i and Yazidis combined. On the other hand, secularism (separation of church and state) counts as 1.1 billion.

Reference: ‘Graphic: A demographic breakdown of the world of religion‘, National Post, 23 March 2012

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A New Evolutionary Theory: The Black Queen Hypothesis

Hearts Penalty Cards

Photo: Liko81 (CC)

Via ScienceDaily:

Microorganisms can sometimes lose the ability to perform a function that appears to be necessary for their survival, and yet they still somehow manage to endure and multiply. How can this be? The authors of an opinion piece appearing in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology, on March 27 explain their ideas about the matter. They say microbes that shed necessary functions are getting others to do the hard work for them, an adaptation that can encourage microorganisms to live in cooperative communities.

The Black Queen Hypothesis, as they call it, puts forth the idea that some of the needs of microorganisms can be met by other organisms, enabling microbes that rely on one another to live more efficiently by paring down the genes they have to carry around. In these cases, it would make evolutionary sense for a microbe to lose a burdensome gene for a function it doesn’t have to perform for itself.

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Minnesota School Board Interferes With Senior’s Porn Star Prom Date

Mike StoneWhat a little genius. USA Today says:

A Minnesota school district has quashed a high school’s senior plan to bring a porn star to his senior prom.

Mike Stone, 18, had tweeted hundreds of porn actresses with an invitation to the Tartan High School prom May 12 until adult film star Megan Piper accepted his proposal.

Piper tells KSTP-TV’s Mark Saxenmeyer that she missed her own prom and couldn’t turn down Stone’s invitation.

“It was a sweet gesture. It was so cute. I couldn’t say no,” she tells the Twin Cities TV station.

The adult film star adds that she had no intention of turning the evening into a sordid spectacle: “I don’t plan to show up butt naked or anything. I’m going to wear a pretty prom dress.”

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Greece’s Cashless, Euro-Free Currency Working

HermesReports Jon Henley in the Guardian:

In recent weeks, Theodoros Mavridis has bought fresh eggs, tsipourou (the local brandy), fruit, olives, olive oil, jam, and soap. He has also had some legal advice, and enjoyed the services of an accountant to help fill in his tax return.

None of it has cost him a euro, because he had previously done a spot of electrical work – repairing a TV, sorting out a dodgy light – for some of the 800-odd members of a fast-growing exchange network in the port town of Volos, midway between Athens and Thessaloniki.

In return for his expert labour, Mavridis received a number of Local Alternative Units (known as tems in Greek) in his online network account. In return for the eggs, olive oil, tax advice and the rest, he transferred tems into other people’s accounts. “It’s an easier, more direct way of exchanging goods and services,” said Bernhardt Koppold, a German-born homeopathist and acupuncturist in Volos who is an active member of the network.

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Is Democracy An Illusion?

Karl MarxJohn Stoehr writes on Al Jazeera:

In the US, the dominant political discourse consists of ideas put forth by the ruling class.

Karl Marx never visited the United States, but he nevertheless understood the country, because he understood capitalism. As you know, there’s no American ideology that’s mightier than capitalism. Equality, justice and the rule of law are nice and all, but money talks.

In their 1846 book The German Ideology, Marx and co-author Frederick Engels took a look at human history and made a plain but controversial observation. In any given historical period, the ideas that people generally think are the best and most important ideas are usually the ideas of the people in charge. If you have a lot of money and own a lot of property, then you have the power to propagandise your worldview and you have incentive to avoid appearing as if you’re propagandising your worldview.

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Anarchism and Enlightenment

Buddhist Anarchism

Illustration: H0utw (CC)

A reproduction of Gary Snyder’s 1969 seminal text “Buddhist Anarchism” found on The Anarchist Library:

Buddhism holds that the universe and all creatures in it are intrinsically in a state of complete wisdom, love and compassion; acting in natural response and mutual interdependence. The personal realization of this from-the-beginning state cannot be had for and by one-“self” — because it is not fully realized unless one has given the self up; and away.

In the Buddhist view, that which obstructs the effortless manifestation of this is Ignorance, which projects into fear and needless craving. Historically, Buddhist philosophers have failed to analyze out the degree to which ignorance and suffering are caused or encouraged by social factors, considering fear-and-desire to be given facts of the human condition. Consequently the major concern of Buddhist philosophy is epistemology and “psychology” with no attention paid to historical or sociological problems. Although Mahayana Buddhism has a grand vision of universal salvation, the actual achievement of Buddhism has been the development of practical systems of meditation toward the end of liberating a few dedicated individuals from psychological hangups and cultural conditionings.

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Pravda Chided U.S. Media for Ignoring Sherrif Joe Arpaio Investigation

PravdaDianna Cotter wrote on Pravda:

A singularly remarkable event has taken place in the United States of America. This event occurred in Arizona on March 1st and was an earth shattering revelation.

A long awaited press conference was given by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a five time elected Sheriff, which should have made national and international headlines. Arpaio’s credentials include serving in the United States Army from 1950 to 1953, service as a federal narcotics agent serving in countries all over the world with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and served as the head of the Arizona DEA. Without doubt, this is a serious Law Enforcement Officer, not one to be taken in by tin-foil-hat wearing loons.

Yet, in the five days since his revelations there has been little in the way of serious reporting on the findings he presented in his presser. With 6 short videos, the Sheriff and his team presented a devastating case, one the tame US press is apparently unable to report.

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