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Mind, Brain, Soul and Atheism.

This is going to be a long post and is copied from;




I am an atheist because I have found no evidence that leads me to believe that the supernatural claims of any religion are true, and the notion of the soul is no exception. In fact, as this essay will demonstrate, there is strong evidence against the existence of a soul in humans, pointing instead to the alternative of materialism - that the mind is not separate from the brain, but that it arises from and is produced by neural activity within the brain. Simply stated, the mind is what the brain does.

As a practical matter, it should be easy to judge between dualism and materialism, because unlike most religious doctrines, the notion of the soul is an idea that would seem to have testable consequences. Specifically, if the human mind is the product of a "ghost in the machine" and not the result of electrochemical interactions among neurons, then the mind should not be dependent on the configuration of the brain that houses it. In short, there should be aspects of the mind that owe nothing to the physical functioning of the brain.

Until recently, this prediction was difficult to test, but modern scientific innovations have thrown light on the subject. Medical techniques such as CAT scans (short for computed axial tomography), PET (positron emission topography), and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) allow the structure and function of the living brain to be studied. Scientists can see which areas of the brain "light up" with activity when a healthy person performs a mental task, or they can examine patients who have suffered injury or disease to see which parts of the brain, when damaged, correspond to which deficits of neural function.

And already, a disappointing result for theists has emerged. Some mental functions are localized, while others are more diffuse, but there is no aspect of the mind that does not correspond to any area of the brain. In fact, we know precisely which brain regions control many fundamental aspects of human consciousness.

The image of the brain that is familiar to most people - the organ of convoluted gray matter, about the size of two fists held together - is actually an image of just the cerebrum, the outermost and topmost area of the brain. In humans, the cerebrum takes up about 80% of total brain volume, and is responsible for most higher-order cognitive functions. The thin outer layer of the cerebrum, only a few millimeters thick, is called the cerebral cortex or simply cortex for short, and it is this which has the distinctive wrinkled, folded and convoluted gray appearance ("cortex" is Latin for "bark").

The cerebrum is divided into two hemispheres, the left and the right, which are basically symmetrical in structure, mirror images of each other. There is some specialization of function between the two; for example, in most people language is controlled entirely by the left hemisphere. However, to a large extent the two hemispheres do similar jobs. For example, each one receives sensory input from, and sends motor commands to, one side of the body.

Each hemisphere is divided into four main regions, called lobes: the frontal lobe, the temporal lobe, the occipital lobe, and the parietal lobe. Roughly speaking, the occipital lobes are located in the rear of the brain, the temporal lobes on the bottom, the parietal lobes on top of the brain, and the frontal lobes, as their name implies, toward the front, behind the forehead (Austin 1998, p. 150).

contd;
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As promised - The Best Insult Letter Ever

laugh I posted this ages ago in the forums but it came to mind again this morning.......

To Whom It May Concern..................


You are an encephalitic, bigoted, and vile little cretin. You're a putrescent mass, a walking vomit. You are a spineless little worm deserving nothing but the profoundest contempt. You are a jerk, a cad, a weasel. Your life is a monument to ignorance. You are a stench, a revulsion, a big suck on a sour lemon.

You are a bleating foal, a curdled staggering mutant dwarf smeared richly with the effluvia and offal accompanying your alleged birth into this world. An insensate, blinking calf, meaningful to nobody, abandoned by the puke-drooling, giggling beasts who sired you and then killed themselfs in recognition of what they had done.

I will never get over the embarrassment of belonging to the same species as you. You are a monster, an ogre, a malformity. You have all the appeal of a paper cut. Lepers avoid you. You are worthless, less than nothing.

You are a weed, a fungus, the dregs of this earth. And did I mention you smell?

You snail-skulled little rodent. Would that a hawk pick you up, drive its beak into your brain, and upon finding it rancid set you loose to fly briefly before spattering the ocean rocks with the frothy pink shame of your ignoble blood. May you choke on the queasy, convulsing nausea of your own trite, foolish beliefs.

You are weary, stale, flat and unprofitable. You are grimy, squalid, nasty and profane. You are foul and disgusting. You're a fool, an ignoramus. Monkeys look down on you. Even sheep won't have sex with you. You are unreservedly pathetic, starved for attention, and lost in a land that reality forgot.

And what meaning do you expect your delusionally self-important statements of unknowing, inexperienced opinion to have with us? What fantasy do you hold that you would believe that your tiny-fisted tantrums would have more weight than that of a leprous desert rat, spinning rabidly in a circle, waiting for the bite of the snake?

You are a waste of flesh. You have no class. You are ridiculous and obnoxious. You are the moral equivalent of a leech. You are a living emptiness, a meaningless void. You are stale and senile. You are a disease, you puerile one-handed slack-jawed drooling meatslapper.

On a good day you're a half-wit. You remind me of drool. You are deficient in all that lends character. You have the personality of wallpaper. You are dank and filthy. You are asinine and benighted. You are the source of all unpleasantness. You spread misery and sorrow wherever you go
.
You're a smarmy lagerlout git. A bloody woofter sod. You grotty w*nking oik artless base-court apple-john. You clouted boggish foot-licking twit. You dankish clack-dish plonker. You gormless crook-pated tosser. You churlish boil-brained clotpole ponce. You cockered bum-bailey poofter. You craven dewberry pisshead cockup pratting naff. You gob-kissing gleeking flap-mouthed coxcomb. You dread-bolted fobbing beef-witted clapper-clawed flirt-gill.

You are a fiend and a coward, and you likely have bad breath. You are degenerate, noxious and depraved. I feel debased just for knowing you exist. I despise everything about you, and I wish you would go away.

contd;
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Divine Blackmail - another quite long one......

When confronted with the problem of evil - i.e., why a loving God allows pain and suffering to exist - theists of the Western traditions often invoke the "free will" defense, that God wanted us to be truly free and that such freedom necessitates evil; we must have the option to either choose him or reject him.

However, this argument cannot by itself solve the problem of evil, in part because it cannot explain the existence of natural as opposed to human-caused evils (see "All Possible Worlds" for more on this). Additionally, a strong case could be made that human behavior is not entirely free. The way a person acts and thinks is undeniably affected by environment and upbringing - personality is the product of nurture as well as nature, and no human being is completely free of outside influences. It could well be argued that our nature is the product of conditioning and circumstance, perhaps even that all human behavior is ultimately deterministic, even if all the relevant factors are too numerous and subtle for any outside observer to ever measure completely (although I do not subscribe to this extreme view).

But more important is the objection that, according to the monotheist religions' own beliefs, humans are not free. What they claim to be free will is really a hollow mockery, a choice that is not a choice at all.

Imagine you are accosted one night by a mugger in a dark alley. He jabs the business end of a pistol into your back and demands your wallet and valuables. Understandably, most people in that situation would hand them over. Now imagine the mugger was caught and brought to trial. On the witness stand, could he legitimately claim this? "I didn't commit any illegal act; I offered my victim a choice to hand over his wallet or not and he chose to give it to me. He acted out of his own free will. He could have chosen to refuse if he had wanted to."

Would any rational jury accept such a defense? Of course not, because the mugger's claim that you acted out of free will is false. There are several qualifications for a decision to be genuinely free, one of which is that it be an informed choice - the party making the decision must fully understand the options and the likely ramifications of each. But another, more relevant one in this instance is that the decision not be coerced. If undue force, pressure or intimidation is applied to steer you towards a particular choice, then you're not acting out of free will.

Such is the case in the monotheist worldview. According to its proponents, God has offered humans a choice: to accept and worship him, or to reject him. People who choose to worship him will ascend to Heaven when they die, where they will receive an infinite reward. People who choose to reject him will be cast into Hell, where they will receive an infinite punishment.

This choice is not free at all - it is the most transparent and blatant attempt at coercion imaginable. One of our two options will earn us eternal torment; the other will not. God is like the mugger in the dark alley with the gun shoved into our back. Of course you could theoretically refuse to hand over your wallet (and likely get your brains blown out), if you were that stubborn or that perverse. But that doesn't mean your choice is free; the mugger can't claim at trial that you acted of your own volition. You were given a choice that was not a choice at all.


contd;
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Paedophiles round the coast of Britain..........

Reading a thread the other day I followed it up with a bit of searching and found that Gary Glitter, the recently released from a Thai jail, British offender has a boat - a yacht in fact and whilst he was in prison for offences related to 10 and 11 yr old girls, he put this boat into a friends name and also, renamed it to......... Dirty Trick 2............ This renaming would suggest that his plan was to cruise the coastlines of whichever country he chose and pulling in at various small harbours, he could carry on his dastardly deeds undetected - thankfully, the ruse was detected by the authorities in Spain but really, considering that very few of these people actually do get caught, how likely is it that this scenario is actually happening to some poor child right at this moment in time.........


The whole issue raised concerns for me about tracking these people (at least the ones that are known of) utilising the GPS technology which drivers use to find various destinations and is also used extensively in tracking animals.

I think this article from says it better than I can at this moment...........


"Amid concerns about the security of existing tagging systems and prison overcrowding, the Ministry of Justice is investigating the use of satellite and radio-wave technology to monitor criminals. But, instead of being contained in bracelets worn around the ankle, the tiny chips would be surgically inserted under the skin of offenders in the community.... The tags, labelled "spychips" by privacy campaigners, are already used around the world to keep track of dogs, cats, cattle and airport luggage, but there is no record of the technology being used to monitor offenders in the community....

The move is in line with a proposal from Ken Jones, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, that electronic chips should be surgically implanted into convicted paedophiles and sex offenders in order to track them more easily. Global Positioning System (GPS) technology is seen as the favoured method of monitoring such offenders to prevent them going near "forbidden" zones such as primary schools....

The Government has been forced to review sentencing policy amid serious overcrowding in the nation's jails, after the prison population soared from 60,000 in 1997 to 80,000 today....

More than 17,000 individuals, including criminals and suspects released on bail, are subject to electronic monitoring at any one time, under curfews requiring them to stay at home up to 12 hours a day. But official figures reveal that almost 2,000 offenders a year escape monitoring by tampering with ankle tags or tearing them off....

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, said the proposal would not make his members' lives easier and would degrade their clients.... "This is the sort of daft idea that comes up from the department every now and then, but tagging people in the same way we tag our pets cannot be the way ahead."

Though many may recoil from the Brave New World feel of any proposed microchip tracking system, I think these technologies could and should be used for progressive sentencing reforms. I suspect many offenders at initial sentencing and when considered for parole would happily agree to microchip tracking over a longer term of incarceration. Moreover, the fact that "we tag our pets" this way is not clearly a sign it is inhumane; after all, as noted here, those objecting to lethal injection generally want the criminal justice system to adopt the protocols we use for our pets."


There is also a call from the mother of little Sarah Payne, the child who was killed by a paedophile, in support of using this technology..........you can find it here
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Midsummers Day

I have been searching for a poem to post with some piccies to make a Midsummers Day post in the forums and came across this epic by David Hazell. It is written about the area in which I live and I see the hill it mentions every time I go into town - it does indeed stand like a massive great whale in the landscape.

Theres a tiny village at the foot of this hill and I once stayed there to look after a friends aged granny when she came out of hospital, walking the dog out there was an eerie experience cos the village is famed for witchcraft - The Pendle Witches story makes for good reading if anybody likes their history of England.

Heres the poem;


On The Witching Hill At Midsummer.

The path was steep but stepped for ease, as we mounted the flank of ‘The Whale’.
Our mission was to test the truth, of another old Pendle tale.
For Pendle hill is a mound of myths, and fantasys and dreams,
Where witches ride, and ghosts abide, and a wind whipped Bean Sidhe screams.
With noble and forbidding brow, and broad of back and shoulder,
The ancient altar hill was shaped by mighty ‘frost giant’ moulder.
Looming up from England’s heart, as if it heaves with pride
The ‘Old Man’ glowers sternly oe’r the pastured riverside.
We pegged our sheet on the plateau, with the sky still full of light
And waited on the magic hill to greet the Gods of night.

A massive Moon swept the southern sky, like honey in a jar.
A groaning glow, that challenged, the light of the evening star.
The Sun slid into the western sea, throwing up colours and shade;
Amber, gold and cobalt blue; coral and beige and jade.
Then as the arc celestial dimmed, to navy blue, from grey
The marchers of the heavens came to boldly stride their way.
Mirfak elbows clear a path for Perseus to steer.
She goat, Capella’s glistening bleat heralds the Charioteer.
A bright eye gleams on Lyra’s harp; Vega , the eagle of stone.
Cassiopeia, still vain in her chain, spins on her captive throne.

I sat musing on the summit mound, and watched the starlight bloom,
And remembered that my haunches rested on an ancient tomb.
I thought of how those bronze age folk, buried at this site
Must have seen those self-same stars, on long gone, Midsummer nights.
There were two of us at the vigil; yet I’d read how in days gone by,
A healthy host of hundreds had gazed at the morning sky.
Dear old Jessica Lofthouse; had written the tale of tradition.
And she’d told the tale of the dubious sight that had brought us on the mission.
From Pendle’s height at Midsummer sunrise, she’d claimed one would behold,
York Minster windows, reflecting the Sun, shining a reddish gold.

It’s seventy miles from Pendle to York, so like many we had pondered,
And wondered if old Jessica’s mind, just like her feet had wandered.
But come the dawn, if skies were clear, we’d put it to the test.
And we fixed a compass point to York, at the highest point of the crest.
A steady chill had gripped the air, there were wisps of cloud and rain.
So we brewed some tea, and I took a stroll around the upper terrain.
I could see the glow of great cities, and towns, making orange, the sky;
Manchester, Liverpool, Burnley and Blackburn, easy to pick with the eye.
But to the north, just the darkened shape of the dreaming Bowland fells.
And north and east in the purple night, the limestone moorland swells.
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