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Comment: Re:Societal effects (Score 1) 173

I liked Soros' point that a reason for having an "open" society is that you can never be sure if the fantasy you're operating under, is actually going to do more benefit than harm, so one is always trying to remain not too sure of oneself, hence the "openness". For example, don't have a death penalty, because you can never be sure you're not making a big mistake (you might still jail the person, but basically try to be as available to correcting mistakes as possible). Try to be softer, more open, which I guess, can at the same time appear more liberal and more conservative.

Comment: Re:truly an inspiration. (Score 1) 493

by Bongo (#49558891) Attached to: Woman Behind Pakistan's First Hackathon, Sabeen Mahmud, Shot Dead

What would you update them to? Secular philosophy has zero consensus on the most basic ethical questions after trying for 2500 years.

And yes, we are applying ours current to the times. You know this. You just lie and claim we don't, and only you are advocating "1.0" for the schizophrenic purposes of attacking them. Which, is odd, since 100% of the norms you have you got from theism by cultural assimilation, which you then deny the source of, and you have no defensible objective source of your own. Atheism never has come up with anything of it's own, never will, and frankly, that's exactly what you want. You'd no more follow a non-Christian set of ethics than you would a Christian one. You want your moral code to be synonymous with whatever your whims are at the moment. I'll believe otherwise as soon as a concerted attempt is made to come up with... anything, as an alternative.

Religion, also, assimilated from other sources, and humans have, over the aeons, developed their ability, whether that individual belonged to a religion or not.

The religious often like to say that their reason led them religion, so you see, our ability to see the value in some moral teaching, is linked to our capacity to reason. And our capacity to reason has slowly developed, and it has developed over a much longer timespan, it actually predates the major religions. That's where our morality "comes from". It all arose together, and so I don't think you can just separate one area (religion) from the rest of society and claim that it was only religion which drove things.

Consider, I can't actually feel the pain another person feels, especially if they are living on the other side of the world and I have never met them. But I can perform a cognitive trick, and I can ask myself rationally, "If I was them, would I be suffering?"

That's the Golden Rule, and it is very old rule. The key is that it relies on our ability to rationally ask a question which then leads to an imaginary leap of empathy.

I can't feel what it is like to be that person, in their shoes, but I can rationally pose the question, and then consciously bring it up in my imagination, to try to see a story, about what I might be feeling if I was that other person. Cognition is key.

And cognition is hard. Over time we gradually learnt to apply that rule to more people. We didn't used to apply it to slaves, you know, the slaves who had very religious owners. Did religion stop slavery? Doesn't look like it. No, we gradually applied the golden rule, rationally, to more and more situations. Today we use it even when imaging the biosphere.

So atheists, insofar as they have a brain, can very well think about morality and ethics and come up with answers, and our answers today are better than the typical answer you got 2000 years ago. Which isn't to say that a Buddha or a Jesus or a Lao Tzu couldn't still best us today, but they were ahead of their time.

Of course, thinking rationally about ethical problems, is hard. It is hard to try to act in the interests of the whole world. And so people can and do disagree. But that doesn't mean it is hopelessly relative and self-indulgent. Humanity is gradually pulling itself up to become better. Now, this doesn't preclude an afterlife and so on, but we have almost NO evidence for such, and all the major religions disagree on this anyway, some say you have original sin, some say you have your previous karma, some say you can be saved, some say you can only save yourself, and so on, so until we get some real evidence, we are simply having to make do with not knowing.

And that's ok, because maybe, if you wonder that there is more to life, maybe us not knowing is part of the situation, and you'll be tested at the end, and maybe they'll ask, so what did you think of the golden rule, did you use it much?

Comment: Re:truly an inspiration. (Score 1) 493

by Bongo (#49558803) Attached to: Woman Behind Pakistan's First Hackathon, Sabeen Mahmud, Shot Dead

For all its faults, the Catholic church had a good idea, that just letting people read the Bible themselves and interpret it their own way would lead to all kinds of bad things, so they tried to keep people from doing that

Wait, you don't really believe that shit, do you? You're crazier than the catholics if you do. Keeping people from information is always done to handicap them. True leaders create more leaders. The Catholics only want more followers.

Interesting dilemma. I guess the key is to raise people's intelligence, for whilst the "experts" might be doing a good job, the wider populace has to be able to correct their mistakes. So we hope that for every nut who makes a truly awful reading of some moral issue, there are hundreds around who can come up with a better reading and then let the best ideas compete and spread. And as more people are exposed to more ideas, they (hopefully) become smarter.

For example, many people have the notion that there is something "wrong" with life, and so they turn to religion, on that basic belief that life is "wrong", and so some end up wanting something "pure" and "holy" which, by definition, is not part of normal life, because normal life is "bad". That then leads to them coming up with ludicrous fantasies about what is "pure". So they come up with their "pure" idea, and they notice then that 99.999% of people will think they are wrong, and really, the more people say you're wrong, the more "pure" your ideas seem to be, so you must be on the right track to being the chosen one.

The idea that you have to declare life "bad" and then toil and suffer to "achieve" purity and salvation, is pernicious and a key assumption of the monotheistic religions, and some other ones also. Yet also an idea that is very easily undone:

Consider the lilies of the field...

Comment: Re:Antarctica (Score 1) 137

by Bongo (#49477533) Attached to: Road To Mars: Solving the Isolation Problem

We're not that special - we are just another animal.

Slight quibble: you might think it is safe ground to claim that, but we have no idea what sentience is nor how it works nor which creatures have it. Is an ape sentient? Is an ant sentient?

Claiming we are "human" or "ape" or "just an animal" is about as proven as claiming we are "God's children" or "living in the matrix" whatever other claptrap. We know we are sentient of the world, but we haven't located sentience IN the world. We know that what we experience can be altered by altering the brain, but what is doing the experiencing is unknown. The brain is the TV. But what is experiencing the TV picture? This is not a trivial problem to be overlooked. We don't know what we are. Would you still feel you if you were not sentient, but otherwise a human going about behaving like any other human? Just "human" instead of "human being"?

But that aside, yes by all means let's go to space.

Comment: Re:Who wears a watch these days (Score 1) 290

by Bongo (#49462675) Attached to: Report: Apple Watch Preorders Almost 1 Million On First Day In the US

I'm not really sure where the reminder comes in, because the time taken to boil is so short. Plus it's obvious when it's done because a 3kw kettle is noisy as hell when it boils.

Between 9 and 10, apparently, as the boffins claim you have to steep for like, 4 mins or something, I forget, should be an app for that.

(No reply necessary, IANATD, all I drink is coooooooffffffffeeeeeeee)

Comment: Re:Sensors wrong (Score 1) 460

by Bongo (#49422637) Attached to: Planes Without Pilots

The simple facts are, accident rates on planes have gone way down as the amount of automation has gone way up.

But would the rates have gone down without pilots there at all?

It may be just a case of the pilots having more time to sit and watch what's going on.

Isn't there a philosophical difference on whether the machine should watch the pilot (and override the pilot if the machine thinks the pilot is making a mistake) and the pilot watching the machine (and overriding the machine when the pilot thinks the machine is making a mistake) ?

Comment: Re:Just what we need... (Score 1) 142

by Bongo (#49420689) Attached to: Stanford Develops Fast-Charging, Stable Aluminum Battery

A "resource" can also be people's brains, just as it used to mean people's muscles, ie. slavery.

The point is, people invented stuff, which meant we could do far more, using stuff which was previously of no use. Resources can be "created".

I mean, that's the whole point about green technology isn't it? Use something which was previous mostly useless, like tides and wind. Likewise, we'll "create" new "resources" if we can invent new ways of doing stuff. And if you're worried about running out of rocks, well we might be able to invent ways of using asteroids.

You can't "run out of resources" as such, rather, you can run out of imagination and science.

I mean, I agree it is a race, population versus ingenuity, but we've always had that race, there has always been survival pressure.

And the "let's just stop" option, doesn't put off the inevitable "running out" either, it just means a long period of stagnation, followed by extinction anyhow.

It is "create" or "die".

Comment: Re:Why are people bullying? (Score 2) 353

You've got a point (I agree) about the monotheistic religions: they are inherently divisive.

Of course, before that, people divided according to blood ties, clans, tribes, etc., so monotheism was in a way an improvement... 2500 years ago, if resources were scarce and tribes were fighting. (If you're on Pandora and the next tribe is a whole forest away, with plenty of luscious food available for all, fine, stay in tribes).

But today we need so much more than, my group is going to Heaven and yours is inferior and going to Hell.

You can keep the afterlife, you can keep notions of eternal consciousness transcending material existence, you can keep the notion of higher wisdom, you can keep flying saucers and ghosts and all that, you can keep reincarnation, you just need to admit all humans equally to your club. Whether in this life or the next, you'd want ALL humans to be treated fairly and equally, and none of this, "we are the chosen ones, y'all are heathens, kaffirs, fallen", whatever.

Maybe you're a sentience which exists forever, OK, so what, you are here now, be nice to people equally.

Today's scientific question is: What in the world is electricity? And where does it go after it leaves the toaster? -- Dave Barry, "What is Electricity?"