Table of Contents

The Little Book of Humanity.............................................................................................................................1 Philip K. Dick on reality and beliefs ..................................................................................................................2 Bertrand Russell on war.....................................................................................................................................5 Bertrand Russell on certainty............................................................................................................................8 Ryszard Kapuscinski on achieving goals........................................................................................................10 Richard Feynman on not fooling oneself........................................................................................................13 Feedback for Post "Richard Feynman on not fooling oneself" ..............................................................15 Bertrand Russell on reason and courage........................................................................................................16 Feedback for Post "Bertrand Russell on reason and courage" ...............................................................18 Molly Ivins on confusion in democracy..........................................................................................................19 Feedback for Post "Molly Ivins on confusion in democracy"...............................................................22 Thomas Jefferson on democracy.....................................................................................................................23 Friedrich Durrenmatt on state as a mythical entity......................................................................................26 George Orwell on truth as a revolutionary act..............................................................................................29 William Hazlitt on love of liberty and love of power.....................................................................................32 Thomas Paine on renouncing reason..............................................................................................................35 Feedback for Post "Thomas Paine on renouncing reason"....................................................................38 Bertrand Russell on virtuous and wicked nations.........................................................................................40 Robert G. Ingersoll on happiness...................................................................................................................43 Feedback for Post " Robert G. Ingersoll on happiness" .........................................................................45 Robert Owen on the interests of human race.................................................................................................46 Feedback for Post "Robert Owen on the interests of human race"........................................................48 Steven Weinberg on farce and tragedy of human life...................................................................................49 Jared Diamond on patriotic and religious fanatics ........................................................................................52 Baron May of Oxford on dangers of fundamentalism..................................................................................55 John Stuart Mill on discovering new truths...................................................................................................58

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Table of Contents
Marcus Aurelius on death................................................................................................................................61 Feedback for Post "Marcus Aurelius on death".....................................................................................64 Epicurus on need for natural science..............................................................................................................65 Robert Owen on spirit of universal charity....................................................................................................68 Bertrand Russell on man as a credulous animal............................................................................................70 Feedback for Post "Bertrand Russell on man as a credulous animal"...................................................73 Mark Twain on traditions................................................................................................................................74 Stephen Weinberg on good and evil................................................................................................................77 Feedback for Post "Stephen Weinberg on good and evil".....................................................................79 John Stuart Mill on want of ideas..................................................................................................................80 Bertrand Russell on the lack of exact truth....................................................................................................83 Author's friends................................................................................................................................................85 About the author...............................................................................................................................................87 Pageviews...........................................................................................................................................................88

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The Little Book of Humanity

Philip K. Dick on reality and beliefs
"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." - Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick is of course presenting here in a few terse words a very basic and very universal truth. In fact it is so extremely basic truth that we need somebody to put it in words to really appreciate it. After reading this sentence we may even think that everybody should quite naturally understand its meaning. However a harsh fact of life is that there are a lot of people who seem to believe that not thinking about something makes it go away or that just wishing very hard for something to be true really can make it come true. People have of course all kinds of reasons for doing this. I think that reality is just often seen as too harsh a place to be faced without a safety net offered by soothing and comforting beliefs. Even if a belief in soothing and comforting lies and half-truth does not make the reality go away, the safeguarding and securing those comforting and soothing lies and half-truths can lead into altering our personal view of reality. Such a view is always deep buried in our mind and through it we do interpret the things that do happen in real world. Our own view and understanding of reality can really be changed by beliefs, and we can ultimately act to change reality to suit our beliefs and not the other way around. Through this process our beliefs can in the end really affect reality, even if these beliefs would originally be based on quite irrational premises.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_K._Dick

by jaskaw @ 01.01.2010 - 13:14:50 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2010/01/01/reality-is-that-which-when-you-stop-believing-in-it-7672157/

Bertrand Russell on war
"War does not determine who is right - only who is left." - Bertrand Russell (attributed)

There is no certainty if this quote is really by Bertrand Russell, but it fits his character so exceedingly well, that I for one am quite willing to believe that he was the originator of this great quote. The quote shows a quick wit that he did certainly possess. First and foremost Bertrand Russell was a dedicated pacifist all his life, who did oppose violence in its all forms. In my mind this quote is important in reminding us that nations do not win wars because they are morally more advanced than others or most of all because they would be carriers of the only true ideology. A feeling of moral superiority can of course help the war effort even greatly, but in the end all wars are won by the nations that are more capable in the battlefield. Wars are won by nations who can muster more powerful or technically advanced forces to the battlefield or who can endure more and longer the hardships and suffering that is inevitably brought about by the war. It is all too easy easy also to forget the fact that Islam now holds sway over a billion people is not because of its moral superiority or the greater truth-value of its message. It is because the Arab armies storming out of the Arabian deserts into the Christian Byzantine Empire and Zoroastrian Persia just were momentarily militarily superior to their opponents. It did also help that these societies were beset by inner strife. The Orthodox Christian Church of the Byzantine was very much preoccupied in a fight against the different heretic (mostly Monophysite) sects of Egypt and Syria. This inner conflict did weaken it considerably at the time of Arab conquest, the more so as the many of Monophysites did ultimately welcome Arabs as liberators who saved them from the attacks of the Christian state church. If the Byzantine army would have been stronger and the state church more tolerant, Islam could now be a small time religious enterprise, that is found only in the Arabian Peninsula ands its immediate vicinity. Quite similarly the line separating the Protestant and Catholic parts of Europe was not decided on any kind of moral or ideological standards, but simply in the battlefields of the 30 Years War.

by jaskaw @ 02.01.2010 - 16:27:38 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2010/01/02/bertrand-russell-on-war-7678285/

Bertrand Russell on certainty
"Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the essential things in rationality." Bertrand Russell

I do think that Bertrand Russell is setting here one of the most difficult tasks any man or woman can face; the need to avoid accepting and having absolute certainties, as only then one can really see all new evidence in a rational and open way. Every single human is however so very easily and tempted to think that one has found the only possible answer and only possible solution to difficult questions in life. Overcoming this very human feature is not easy and I do not think it is always even possible. However, I do think that setting this kind of unreachable goals is part of the way we really can improve the human existence. We can however be even very certain of very many things even if we are not absolutely certain that these things are unmovable and eternal truths. Think about it; there is a difference. In the end just this is the real difference between a scientific 'truth' and a religious 'truth'. A scientific truth is never absolute, as it can and must be changed, if new and better information is obtained through the process of scientific inquiry. Sadly, the act of obtaining fresh new information has never had similar effect on religious 'truths', as they are marketed as absolute and final 'truths'. Religions do sell certainty as even their most important asset. However, it mostly is false certainty that is not based on having the best possible answers, but more on rejecting all other answers.

by jaskaw @ 04.01.2010 - 20:12:56 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2010/01/04/bertrand-russell-on-certainty-7692296/

Ryszard Kapuscinski on achieving goals
"Our salvation is in striving to achieve what we know we'll never achieve." - Ryszard Kapuscinski

I was nearly overwhelmed by this quote when I first stumbled into it, as I see that it presents in one short sentence so much of the things that I personally do see as the essence of human enterprise and progress. Firstly I see that Ryszard Kapuscinski is saying that humans should or even must have higher goals in life. This is a thing that I do wholeheartedly agree with. Secondly in my mind he is saying that striving to achieve those goals is the important thing, not reaching them. I do honestly think that really reaching any meaningful ultimate goals in a societal levelis well nigh impossible, as in the real world goalpost in a society keep going further and further when we approach them. And this is as it should be, as I do think that every time humans have started to think that they have reached some kind of ultimate goals in the level of whole society, the result has been big trouble, as social development and progress have ultimately stagnated because of this illusion. The other dangerous development is that all too easily people who are seen to threaten these already achieved goals are soon seen as dangerous. Defending these achieved ultimate goals can even get to be the primary function of the society. I do really think that one can have noble and worthwhile higher goals in life, even if one knows as Kapuzinski suggests that one can never really reach them. The goals people do have do not become null and void because of that knowledge, but I do think that they can even become greatly enhanced from accepting this fact. This all is of course also all about rejecting absolutes, which of course are so dear to mathematicians, but unfortunately non-existent in human societies.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryszard_Kapu%C5%9Bci%C5%84ski

by jaskaw @ 05.01.2010 - 20:26:18 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2010/01/05/ryszard-kapuscinski-on-achieving-goals-7698454/

Richard Feynman on not fooling oneself
"Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool." - Richard Feynman in lecture "What is and What Should be the Role of Scientific Culture in Modern Society"

In my mind this quote collects in one sentence much of the contradictions and also of the greatness that is always inherent in general scientific method used by the modern scientific world. Science wants and tries to be as impersonal as is possible, but we must accept the fact all the things that people do in the real world can become even very personal in the end. When a scientist thinks that he or she has discovered something really new and worthwhile, he or she will inevitably create a personal relationship with that discovery, whatever it is. There is no escaping this fact that science is a personal thing also, but the true power of the modern scientific method lies in the fact that these personal feelings do not generally matter very much in the long run. In the end all scientific findings are put though the grueling test of peer review and overall scrutiny by the best experts in the given field of expertise, before they can really be incorporated as part of the scientific explanation of the world. The aim is that all truly important findings are rigorously reviewed by people who are not friends of the originators of the original idea or are in many cases even their worst competitors for scientific glory. This system makes sure that the personal attachment to an idea by the originator of the scientific theory does not matter in the end. Because of this science can truly be a vehicle for attaining a much truer and clearer view of the world than any single human being can ever reach alone, even if all individual scientists are just human beings, with all the failings of the human beings. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Feynman

by jaskaw @ 07.01.2010 - 23:48:19 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2010/01/07/richard-feynman-on-not-fooling-oneself-7712099/

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Mike Layfield [Visitor] 08.01.2010 @ 07:51 Great quote! There is a typo in the commentary. second line: "ion" s/b "in".

jaskaw pro http://www.beinghuman.blogs.fi 08.01.2010 @ 09:34 Thanks Mike, its corrected now! Hrothgir [Visitor] 08.01.2010 @ 14:48 I'd add Feynman's comments on Challenger "[... R]eality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled."

Bertrand Russell on reason and courage
"To save the world requires faith and courage: faith in reason, and courage to proclaim what reason shows to be true." - Bertrand Russell

I fear that this idea by Bertrand Russell is very hard to understand wholly, especially as the bad word "faith" creeps into the discussion here. I however think that crucial point here is to understand what Bertrand Russell really means by "faith". A fact is that to really understand that for example air consists of collection of different gases you need faith in that science can really resolve this kind of things. At deep down in the very bottom there is always the issue of "faith". However, I do think that "trust" would be a much better word in this case. That trust is in the case of science built on real world achievements and concrete results in making our lives easier and explaining the world in meaningful ways. On the other hand in the case of religions faith is built on mostly wanting things to be like religions so soothingly claim to be. If we do not think that problems are best solved with rational processes, what do we have? We have a situation where can start accepting all kinds of things at face value, just because we so dearly want them to be true as is the case with religions. This does not mean at all that humans would be rational creatures, far from it. It is is about trying to harness our inherent irrationality to a certain degree, so that decisions in a societal level at least could be based on rational arguments when these are available. The aim could just be not to base decisions on the level of society on for example on irrational claims and ancient texts written in strikingly different societies. I do fear that humans are in the end quite irrational beings. However that does not stop us form striving constantly to achieve a greater degree of rationality. Perfect and full rationality is of course quite unattainable, but achieving even a little bit higher degree of rationality in our the decision-making process of our society can only benefit it.

by jaskaw @ 08.01.2010 - 23:53:04 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2010/01/08/bertrand-russell-on-reason-and-courage-7718350/

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bakrds [Visitor] 10.01.2010 @ 18:27 Speaking of irrationality, isn't it both irrational and a wee bit arrogant to assume that Betrand Russel wasn't aware of the connotations of the word 'faith' when he said 'faith in reason'. And what of assuming that your readers are not capable of separating faith in reason from faith in religion? I am sorry if this seems harsh, but I find this assumption a bit insulting. Science is built on faith just as much as religion is, in some ways even more. True, trust is a similar word but does not capture the leap - the 'inspiration' that drives the lifetime of toil and belief it sometimes takes to find the answers in science. Faith is just a word. Why are you afraid to let it stand? | Show subcomments jaskaw pro http://www.beinghuman.blogs.fi 10.01.2010 @ 20:15 My comments are in fact based on my earlier publication of this quote in a different context, where some readers were outraged by the fact that Bertrand Russell even dared to use the word "faith" in the context of science. I however really do think that the "faith" Bertrand Russell is speaking of here is not the kind of blind and unblinking "faith" religions are demanding from their followers and I wanted to clear up this fact.

Molly Ivins on confusion in democracy
"The thing about democracy, beloveds, is that it is not neat, orderly, or quiet. It requires a certain relish for confusion." - Molly Ivins

I do think that Molly Ivins is hitting the head of the nail here and hitting it hard. The big problem in democracy for many is that it is often not very easy to predict the outcomes of democratic processes. The hard fact remains that democracy can also fail miserably and produce a lot of wrong and mistaken decisions. However, the really big thing in democracy is that it is the only known form of government that includes a inbuilt and demonstrably workable system of error-correction. It is all too easily forgotten that the only real alternatives to democracy are different forms of totalitarian systems of government. The hard fact is that all totalitarian systems do also necessarily produce quite similar errors of judgment and wrong decisions as a democratic process does. However, these errors can soon get much, much worse, when the feed-back loop is missing completely in a totalitarian system. The big thing why democracy in the end wins over totalitarianism is the process of correcting the mistakes that have already been made. In a democracy also errors of judgment can be brought up and discussed openly, but in a totalitarian system they are all too often swept under the rug. In totalitarian systems problems start all too easily piling up, as a ruling elite very often falls into the fallacy that problems that are not talked about do not exist. They can think that simply controlling the media will make problems disappear. Even if you have the most brilliant administrators in the world, they will make ultimately wrong decisions, if these decisions are based on warped set of data. As they say in the computer world: "Rubbish in, rubbish out". It does not help if you have the best computer in the world if it is fed the warped data. The other really big thing of course is that in a democracy a failed government can simply be elected out, but in totalitarian systems you all too often need violence and raw force to do the

same. No government has ever been eternal and I really do think when the change of government can be accomplished without shedding any blood, the society benefits in a big way.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molly_Ivins

by jaskaw @ 10.01.2010 - 11:08:27 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2010/01/10/molly-ivins-on-confusion-in-democracy-7725856/

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Paul Stillman [Visitor] 10.01.2010 @ 21:49 Actually, republicanism is an alternative to democracy and a positive one at that. Our Founding Fathers rightly feared giving too much power to the unwashed masses and created a republic when they drafted the constitution. They created a Chief Executive who was to be selected by an electoral college, a senate that was to be elected by the state legislatures, a House of Representat,ives that was to be elected by the people, and a Judiciary that served for life whose members were nominated by the president with the advice and consent of the people. Today, we have the voters, who frequently pay very little attention to the issues of the day, directly amending their state constitution based on political commercials that appeal to their emotions rather than their intellect. california, the most ungovernable state in the country, grants its voters the power of intiative, referendum, and recall. Consequently, in the 1970's, California amended its constitution with Proposition 13, a measure that permanently affected the way property taxes are raised in the state. Thirty years later, the state is plagued by huge deficits and underfunded schools. If we returned to our republican roots, we would elect people, arguably, who had the time, temperament, and knowledge to make rational decisions for us. Each branch of the federal govt would act as a check and balance on the other two so that no one constituency gained too much power; similarly, the states would act as a check on the powers of the federal govt and vice versa. While the founders didn't create a perfect system, they did create a system that, in my opinion, is preferable to the one that has evolved. We have become a virtual direct democracy where the whims of the majority ride roughshod over the rights of the minority. People who lack the education and knowledge to be decisionmakers threaten our elected officials and frequently prevent them from acting in the best interests of the nation rather than in the interest of the loudest and most vocal faction. What we have become is not what our Founders intended and, frankly, is inferior to what they bestowed on us. We have become a democratic tyranny rather than a republic ala Cicero and Rome. Daniel [Visitor] 11.01.2010 @ 21:23 That's a fair point. The article posits a bit of an "either or" argument without really considering all of the possibilities.

Thomas Jefferson on democracy
"The republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights of mankind." - Thomas Jefferson in a letter to William Hunter (11 March 1790)

It can be now hard to remember that the Founding Father Thomas Jefferson was a extremist and a radical in his time. As he did slide on the revolutionary road he necessarily questioned all the things that had been for centuries taught for generation after generation to be god-given and eternal. This process of radicalization on all fronts was quite inevitable for the group of men that did finally lead the fight for American independence. The British government and the ruling Christian state church of Britain were intertwined as one great whole and renouncing the other one part necessitated rising against also to the other. In fact the official Anglican Christian Church of that day was just a support arm of the government and those who rose against the British Government had to stand up against the British state church also. Of course this process was greatly helped and eased by the fact that a great deal of Americans were religious dissident in the first place, who had emigrated to America just to escape the wrath of the official Anglican church. From this it was much easier to take the next logical step forward; to move outside the Christian religion altogether and many of the Founding Fathers did really take it. Thomas Jefferson had no certain religious affiliation, but is widely seen as being a deist, even if he classed himself as Epicurean. However, Epicureanism is not normally in modern times classed as a religion, even if in reality it was a direct competitor of early Christianity in the Empire of Rome. Epicureanism was of course a school of philosophy, but rational philosophy in those days often had also the role that now is reserved solely to religions based on supernatural beliefs. Deism on the other hand is a religious and philosophical belief that a some kind of a higher force had created the universe. However, deists do also believe that also that this basic idea can be determined using reason and observation of the natural world alone. It can be done without a need for either faith, holy books, priests nor any kind of organized religion.

Thomas Jefferson saw clearly also the inherent inequality that was inbuilt in the totalitarian feudal form of government and his words ring true to this day. Experience shows that all totalitarian forms of government have in real world have ended up harming and oppressing some part or parts of the population under their rule. There is no real reason to expect that the totalitarian governments of the future would be any better in this respect. All people can of course never be happy in a democracy either, but we have real world evidence that the median level of contentment will be higher in democracies in the long run. Democracies just are capable of change and development in a way that is mostly unachievable in totalitarian systems, as can well be seen in the modern totalitarian countries like Saudi-Arabia or Iran. PS. There was no Republican party in existence when Thomas Jefferson wrote this quote and the word 'republican' was a synonym for 'democratic'. A republican was then basically just a person who opposed monarchy.

by jaskaw @ 11.01.2010 - 22:01:46 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2010/01/11/thomas-jefferson-on-democracy-7736911/

Friedrich Durrenmatt on state as a mythical entity
"For people who have no critical acumen, a state is a mythical entity, for those who think critically it is a rational fiction, created by man in order to facilitate human coexistence. " - Friedrich Dürrenmatt

There still seemingly exists a belief that some things need to be as they are in a society because of some kind of higher or even 'divine' plan. Some people just do not understand that things are as they are in a society just because some things are necessary for the well-being of human inhabitants of that society and to keep the society going. There really are people who think that some things should be labeled as sacred and outside any scrutiny. I do think that this can be because some people do see certain features of society to be so useful for themselves or the society that they must never be allowed to change. Declaring some things 'sacred' can just be a strategy for keeping certain important things out of the normal critical scrutiny. There are people who may think that even evaluating and analyzing central social rules and conventions does threaten them. It seems that they could fear that any kind of of questioning of the established basic principles of a society may start the downfall of that society and at least make the established social order crumble. In my mind Friedrich Dürrenmatt is however just stating the fact that states and nations are useful tools, but there is nothing sacred or divine or sacred in them or their inner workings. Even states are just human creations that are created to serve humans, not the other way around. A great deal of all the things we choose to believe in of course fiction, which we choose to believe because this fiction is so useful to us. Acknowledging that fact is however very hard, and it made even harder by the fact that as fiction that is believed hard enough often becomes quite indistinguishable from the reality.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_D%C3%BCrrenmatt

by jaskaw @ 12.01.2010 - 21:03:18 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2010/01/12/for-people-who-have-no-critical-acumen-a-state-is-7743037/

George Orwell on truth as a revolutionary act
"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

It is quite fascinating how often a very simple and basic psychological process happens; when a crucial decision had been made, very soon all evidence starts pointing in ones mind that the decision that was made was the only one possible. Soon there simply is no contradictory information to be even seen anywhere. We don't of course ever notice when this happens, as we just don't see the contradictory evidence anymore and we have no idea that our ideas could even be problematic. On the level of individual this is often quite harmless and even necessary process, as otherwise we could be stricken with remorse for ages after every major decision we do make. However, on the level of a whole society this process can lead to situations where public view of reality is warped to accommodate the state policies, the official party line, or the views of the official church. This in turn can lead to situations where policies are followed long after they have already turned out to be quite obsolete, and they do not really relate anymore to the current state of development in the society. The once even valuable old ideas can even turn into something harmful or even evil. This can very easily happen when the world and reality have changed, but our perception of it has not because we cling to ideas that were born in a different age and in a different society. In situations like that we sorely need people like George Orwell to raise their voices.

by jaskaw @ 13.01.2010 - 20:50:39 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2010/01/13/george-orwell-on-truth-as-a-revolutionary-act-7749570/

William Hazlitt on love of liberty and love of power
"The love of liberty is the love of others; the love of power is the love of ourselves." William Hazlitt

For me at least this is a extremely strong sentence. It is loaded with many meanings, but the central theme for me is the fact at the core of freedom is responsibility. When a person gives away his or her freedom he or her is also relieved from responsibility, as also this responsibility is handed over to the authority controlling your life. This is of course a very tempting preposition for many, even more so, as one is simultaneously relieved from the need to think about the motives and reasons for doing things in certain ways. The success of radical Marxism, radical Islam or radical Christianity shows clearly how very many people really desperately want this liberation from the need to think for themselves and most of all from carrying the responsibility for making decision based on their own ideas. On the other hand freedom and liberty require responsibility, as without responsibility freedom simply does not work. When a person is not forced to do certain things in a certain way he or she must reflect over what are the consequences of one's actions in a quite different way than in a authoritarian system, where somebody else can always be blamed for ordering things to be done in a certain way. The big paradox is that totalitarian system is a for many a very easy place to live, as you always know your place and your future, but a free society can be personally much more demanding place to live in. However, I do see that Hazlitt is saying that a totalitarian system is egoistic, as the ease of life that any single person achieves is in the end accomplished by taking away the freedom of choice from all.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Hazlitt

by jaskaw @ 14.01.2010 - 19:55:08 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2010/01/14/william-hazlitt-on-love-of-liberty-7755865/

Thomas Paine on renouncing reason
"To argue with a man who has renounced his reason is like giving medicine to the dead." - Thomas Paine in the "The American Crisis" (1776)

This quote of course needs no explanation as such. The message is as clear as it can get; there is no point in arguing with a person who lets adherence to a dogma wholly dictate his or her thoughts and ideas. Thomas Paine was not of course not familiar with the Internet-debates of today. However, anybody even with a passing acquaintance with the world of debates raging in thousands of mailing lists, chats and comment-pages will instantly recognizes the type Thomas Paine is speaking about. Thomas Paine speaks clearly also about the person who is splurging out endless streams of dogmatic liturgy spiced with endless quotes from some holy book in every discussion he takes part in. Even over 230 years ago it was quite plain to Thomas Paine that there is no point in trying to convince a person who really does not want to listen. The truth all too often lies in the old saying: "You can't teach a pig to sing. It's a waste of time and it annoys the pig." On the other hand giving the field to people think differently than you is not always necessarily a good strategy either. One cannot also deny the fact that argumentation for just argumentations sake just is sometimes a great pastime. Also, often nothing else makes ideas more clear in one's head than trying to figure out ways to convince a stubborn debater who opposes the idea. Even if the other debaters may not be seemingly moved at all with my ideas, the very process of thinking things over once again may be only beneficial to me as a person. So, the debate must continue, but we just should have patience to remember that a good intellectual debate is a end at itself and it can always be beneficial to us, even if results are nowhere to be seen at the very moment. One can never also tell how the ideas presented in the debate may affect people's thinking in the long run, if and when they start slowly sinking in. This effect is of course quite impossible to measure, but it just can be there, given of course that we have the patience not to offend and ridicule people who's ideas seem silly to us at the moment. Sad truth just is that a real debate becomes quite impossible when it degenerates into insults and ad-hominem attacks.

by jaskaw @ 15.01.2010 - 20:45:25 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2010/01/15/thomas-paine-on-renouncing-reason-7762228/

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Brenda P [Visitor] 15.01.2010 @ 21:29 This is hilarious and great timing. Thanks. Anders [Visitor] 15.01.2010 @ 22:27 I know the type all too well. This is another good quote; "What can you do against the lunatic who is more intelligent than yourself, who gives your arguments a fair hearing and then simply persists in his lunacy?" -George Orwell James Stripes [Visitor] http://historynotebook.blogspot.com/ 07.11.2010 @ 17:05 The quote in the epigram is inaccurate. You need ellipses to mark omissions. "TO argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture." | Show subcomments jaskaw pro http://www.beinghuman.blogs.fi 07.11.2010 @ 20:57 James, you are quite right, but this quote is always presented as the shorter version. In fact the shortened version appears in hundreds of places, when the longer version was extremely difficult to even find, when I checked it out. Thanks for your input, in any case, James. James Stripes [Visitor] http://historynotebook.blogspot.com/ 08.11.2010 @ 02:07 It took me less than two minutes to find the full quote in the e-text of The Crisis, but then I got sucked into Paine's writing and spent the next half hour enjoying his wit. I highly recommend the experience. This quote begins a pamphlet addressed to General Howe in which Paine seeks the appropriate way to honor him for his crimes against Americans. I particularly enjoyed this paragraph: "But how, sir, shall we dispose of you? The invention of a statuary is exhausted, and Sir William is yet unprovided with a monument. America is anxious to bestow her funeral favors upon you, and wishes to do it in a manner that shall distinguish you from all the deceased heroes of the last war. The Egyptian method of embalming is not known to the present age, and hieroglyphical pageantry hath outlived the science of deciphering it. Some other method, therefore, must be thought of to immortalize the new knight of the

windmill and post. Sir William, thanks to his stars, is not oppressed with very delicate ideas. He has no ambition of being wrapped up and handed about in myrrh, aloes and cassia. Less expensive odors will suffice; and it fortunately happens that the simple genius of America has discovered the art of preserving bodies, and embellishing them too, with much greater frugality than the ancients. In balmage, sir, of humble tar, you will be as secure as Pharaoh, and in a hieroglyphic of feathers, rival in finery all the mummies of Egypt." I have the Project Gutenberg text on my iPad, which facilitates searching, but you also can read and search at http://www.ushistory.org/paine/crisis/c-05.htm.

Bertrand Russell on virtuous and wicked nations
"No nation was ever so virtuous as each believes itself, and none was ever so wicked as each believes the other." - Bertrand Russell in "Justice in War-Time" (1916)

Bertrand Russell of course points here to the life-blood on jingoistic nationalism. In it one's own nationality is presented as something better and nobler than others, even if there mostly would no real reasons for that elevation. The simple accident of birth is transformed into something that has a higher meaning. Of course there are also even major differences between nations, but the biggest differences are always transient things. They are the results of accidental historical processes and unique situations that do very often evaporate as time and history goes by. On the other hand to say that for example Germans as a nation would have been wicked because the Nazis were able to take hold of the political power in that country for a decade is not a reasonable thing at all. For a bit over decade the machinery of the German state was hijacked by a ruthless gang of political psychopaths and they misused that machinery of state for their own ends. Of course they persuaded many to think like them, but they also forced a great deal of their fellow countrymen with the inherent power and legitimacy carried with the idea of the state to take part in their evil and bad deeds. It would however be even an absurd thing to say that every German of Nazi era day would have been somehow turned into something evil. The nationalistic view of world however inevitably leads into this kind of generalizations. In this model of thinking members of different nations are seen just as stereotypes and the incredible variety of individuals in every society is in purpose hidden from view. There is a simple reason for this; to reach a true nationalistic fervor of hating one's neighbors one needs to be able to forget that the other hated nations are made up of quite similar individuals as you. On the other hand accusing some kind of vague 'national character' for the bad deeds of the Nazi state machinery relieves the pressure to analyze what was the real role of the state in all this. We simple don't want to think the real reasons why the law abiding, decent citizens of Germany were so easily lured and ordered into committing all the atrocities the German Nazi state did commit. Then we need not to think that it was not only the evil Nazi party that made people do these things, but that without the machinery of the state that had fallen into their hands they would not never had a chance of doing most of the evil things that they did finally accomplish. If we put the blame on some kind of 'national character' we do not also need to face the terrible possibility that a ruthless enough gang of political psychopaths would succeed again in a thing like this someplace else and

that they could always take over an state machinery that is geared into obedience for the current regime whatever it is.

by jaskaw @ 16.01.2010 - 17:46:01 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2010/01/16/bertrand-russell-on-virtuous-and-wicked-nations-7767061/

Robert G. Ingersoll on happiness
"The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to make others so." - Robert G. Ingersoll

Colonel, American political leader, and orator Robert G. Ingersoll (1833 1899) can be rightfully considered as the grandfather of the modern freethinker-movement. He rose to oppose the religious dogmas, which by his day were again having the field wholly for themselves after the hectic days of the American Revolution. It is less known fact that many of the leaders of the American revolution were deists, who rejected the Christian dogmas. However, by the time when Robert G. Ingersoll was active after the American Civil War, the Deism of the founding fathers had more or less evaporated. By his day American society was becoming more and more infatuated by Christian religious ideas again. Robert G. Ingersoll had also a deeply humanistic agenda of caring for others and most of all for caring for those who were not able to take care of themselves. He was a friend of the down-trotten and a friend of the working man in general. Robert G. Ingersoll picked up the torch where Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and other more or less Deistic founding fathers had left it. He continued even further into a full-blown agnosticism. Robert G. Ingersoll ultimately rejected even the Deistic idea of a god as a vague world-spirit that does not however interfere with the matters of the mankind. Deists had already rejected the established religions, but Robert G. Ingersoll doubted also the very idea of a god. He however believed in the inherent goodness embedded in mankind, if it just is allowed to blossom. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_G._Ingersoll

by jaskaw @ 17.01.2010 - 17:17:17 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2010/01/17/robert-g-ingersoll-on-happiness-7773488/

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Mikel [Visitor] http://atheistyogi.com 17.01.2010 @ 18:51 Lovely blog! I will check back here often.

Robert Owen on the interests of human race
"Is it not the interest of the human race, that every one should be so taught and placed, that he would find his highest enjoyment to arise from the continued practice of doing all in his power to promote the well-being, and happiness, of every man, woman, and child, without regard to their class, sect, party, country or colour?" - Robert Owen (1841)

Robert Owen was a humanist, philanthropist, the founder of modern co-operative movement. In fact he was one of the first forerunners of the modern western democratic socialism. He was also a practical man, who did run a successful business. There he did show with his own example that a factory-owner could earn a good living, even if he cared for his workers and arranged decent conditions for them. This kind of compassion was absolutely not the norm in the business-world of his days, when factories were often horrible and cruel places of physical torture. Robert Owen developed more and more idealistic ideas in his later days. He was deeply involved in building up idealistic community experiments that did in the end fail miserably. After these failures he did eventually end up in the rising spiritualist circles of Victorian England, but he always rejected the established religions. Robert Owe always saw that the human race had only itself to rely if it wanted to improve its lot. He also did really believe that human race really is capable of improvement, just if it takes matters in its own hands.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Owen

by jaskaw @ 18.01.2010 - 11:58:52 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2010/01/18/robert-owen-on-the-interests-of-human-race-7779141/

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jose joseph [Visitor] http://www.atheistnews.blogs.fi 18.01.2010 @ 12:33 every human being should live for the good of other fellow beings.othewise what is the meaning in calling one a human being. make money for oneself,eat.defacate,sleep,procreate and die like a dog.it is better such a person doesn't come to this earth.love is the true religion. if there is love in your heart,you cannot hoard when your fellow beings are starving.all organized religions are doing harm to human race.the leaders enslave their felowmen their mental slaves and make them lick the leaders feet. they preach terrorism of hell and damnation.no goodness in their heart.they are the real terrorists.all brothers and sisters of this universe get away from the clutches of these crooks.be simple,love everybody,try to help the needy and enjoy the life. Kalle [Visitor] 08.11.2010 @ 17:54 Although his socialist experiments failed, he at least did not force anybody into them. Unfortunately, later socialists used force and made Owen much forgotten.

Steven Weinberg on farce and tragedy of human life
"The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things which lifts human life a little above the level of farce and gives it some of the grace of tragedy." Steven Weinberg in "The First Three Minutes" (1993)

I do think that there is incredible beauty and poetry in the nature and in our whole universe. There is also a unavoidable and beautiful sense of deep mystery when one looks at the origins and character of our universe. However, I do think that with the help of science we can marvel freely at the remaining mysteries of the nature with the expectation that there will less and less of really mysterious things with every passing year. It does not really matter if know very well that we do not yet have all answers yet on how our physical world was originally formed. It does not matter if we do even not yet probably know all the laws and processes that have guided its development. Only religions can make preposterous claims of having all the final answers on the origins and the nature of our physical universe, but science can and will never make claims like that. Science is all about accepting the fact that our knowledge will always be limited by what we are, by where we live and how we can observe the universe. Science bows its head humbly on the sight of all if new marvels of the universe it slowly and methodically reveals bit by bit. Scientists do always know that the answers they can give are just the best answers for the moment, and those coming after them will provide even better, deeper and more magnificent answers. However, looking back what science has already accomplished, we can rest assured that our knowledge will steadily grow, even if it will never be perfect or final. Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg is well-known for his strong support for the scientific way of thinking and his strong opposition of force of irrationality. He was awarded the Nobel prize in Physics in 1979 for his contributions with Abdus Salam

and Sheldon Glashow to the unification of the weak force and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Weinberg

by jaskaw @ 19.01.2010 - 20:25:27 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2010/01/19/steven-weinberg-on-farce-and-tragedy-of-human-life-7788821/

Jared Diamond on patriotic and religious fanatics
"Naturally, what makes patriotic and religious fanatics such dangerous opponents is not the deaths of the fanatics themselves, but their willingness to accept the deaths of a fraction of their number in order to annihilate or crush their infidel enemy. Fanaticism in war, of the type that drove recorded Christian and Islamic conquests, was probably unknown on Earth until chiefdoms and especially states emerged within the last 6,000 years." - Jared Diamond in "Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies"

Jared Diamond is one of the real big current names in the area of "Big History", or in the scientific attempt to find and examine the often quite hidden real big and even universal trends in human evolution and human history. Big History has always been also my own specialty in history, as the big underlying currents of history and especially the undeniable mental transformation of nations or changes in zeitgeist do fascinate me enormously. The wonderful, well written and thoughtful books by Jared Diamond have opened at least my eyes into seeing many things that I would in some cases may have never seen without him. Jared Diamond has studied many wildly differentiating cultures and very often found surprisingly many themes that are common to them all. The basic reason for this is of course that all humans are basically very alike, as have started differentiating to (in appearance) different 'races' quite recently. However, the very basic psychology and physiology of the human species has been formed during the millions of years of evolution of our more or less human-like ancestors. The rulebook however changed dramatically first with the invention of speech and then even more with the invention of writing, as one could develop complex local ideas that changed the landscape of humanity forever for the better and for the worse in some things. I do think that this is the big change to which Jared Diamond is referring in this quote. One could even say that only after creation of society-wide ideologies like nationalism and religions did men really stop fighting for their own survival (or recreation) only. A man just wanting to live a bit better life maybe also on expense of the defeated does not benefit from utterly destroying his opponent, but a man wanting to promote a ideology may do just that, even if this deed does not benefit him personally, but only his ideology. The theory of memes of course explains his behavior, as a very strong meme like a religion can overrun even the most very basic human instinct; the instinct for personal survival.

by jaskaw @ 20.01.2010 - 22:26:34 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2010/01/20/jared-diamond-on-patriotic-and-religious-fanatics-7843687/

Baron May of Oxford on dangers of fundamentalism
"Punishment was much more effective if it came from some all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful deity that controls the world, rather than from an individual person. In such systems, there is unquestioning respect for authority. Faith trumps evidence. But if indeed this is broadly the explanation for how co-operative behaviour has evolved and been maintained in human societies, it could be very bad news. Because although such authoritarian systems seem to be good at preserving social coherence and an orderly society, they are, by the same token, not good at adapting to change. The rise of fundamentalism, not just in the Muslim world but in the United States, and within the Catholic church, could actually make global co-operation more difficult at a time when an unprecedented level of teamwork was needed." - Robert May, Baron May of Oxford

Religions were created to fulfill a clear need in ancient societies. They were needed to create a new kind of mental bond between the members of the new emerging state-like communities. These new communities began to emerge after the innovation of agriculture made it possible to support armed ruling classes who could live on the surplus produced by others. This same surplus was of course used to support also the new religious elite that allied itself with the armed ruling class. These new societies needed new things that would bond together people who would often even never meet and did not often even speak the same language, but were often united only by the fact that they had common rulers. The emerging new kind of national religion was the social glue that was needed to bind these new warrior states together. The need for a new kind of social glue got even stronger after the stronger communities had started taking over weaker ones and a idea of a modern state was invented. This kind of bonding did serve these early societies very well, but the real problem is that they got to be too good in their job. Religions became closed systems or change-resistant memes, which got better and better at creating intensive group cohesion and defining borders between different groups of people.

However, they did soon turn out to be a real a problem in sitautions where co-operation with strangers was needed, but only because of the religion the 'true believers' could be accepted as equals. Now in a globalized world where everybody is depending on what other people do, the kind of tribalism which is triggered by the old religions is all too often a real liability not a advantage at all anymore.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_May,_Baron_May_of_Oxford

by jaskaw @ 21.01.2010 - 19:24:11 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2010/01/21/baron-may-of-oxford-on-danger-of-fundamentalism-7848701/

John Stuart Mill on discovering new truths
"There is always need of persons not only to discover new truths, and point out when what were once truths are true no longer, but also to commence new practices, and set the example of more enlightened conduct, and better taste and sense in human life." John Stuart Mill in "On Liberty" (1859)

Philosopher John Stuart Mill was a child of the Enlightenment. He personally rejected all established religions as false, but admitted their usefulness for the society in certain situations. However, he saw that clinging to any kind of unmovable dogma would be always dangerous, as it would inevitable became a hinder for advancement and development of new ideas in s society. He saw that also societies need to evolve and he believed that also the religions should evolve with the societies. By his time the old extremely dogmatic forms of Christianity were already fast losing ground in the Western Europe. On the rise was a new kind of modern Christianity, that had been immersed in and much changed by the ideas of secular humanism. Among the very same Anglican church that had only a little earlier been a bastion of opposition to all kind of change in the society there emerged the vibrant new anti-slavery movement that in the end did put the end to the slavery in the whole of British Empire. This opposition to slavery did did not arise because because in Christianity there would have been any kind of inbuilt opposition to slavery. On the contrary, all Christian churches had had nothing at all against slavery in all its forms for a millennium and a half. This change did happen because the new humanistic ideas of equality of all men did gain ground in the society. The change did happen because certain prominent members of the church were changed by them and they did change the direction of their church also. This change did not happen because of Christian tradition, but in spite of it. This example shows clearly how even religions can be forced into change when societies around them change enough, given of course that they are not in the position to prevent the change in the first place. The latter was the case in medieval Europe and in the modern Islamic world, where the

extremely strong position of the have religion precluded any kind of new ideas from even entering and emerging in a society.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Stuart_Mill

by jaskaw @ 22.01.2010 - 19:35:03 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2010/01/22/john-stuart-mill-on-discovering-new-truths-7854956/

Marcus Aurelius on death
"He who fears death either fears to lose all sensation or fears new sensations. In reality, you will either feel nothing at all, and therefore nothing evil, or else, if you can feel any sensations, you will be a new creature, and so will not have ceased to have life." Marcus Aurelius

The irrational fear of death has always been one of the main selling points of Abrahamic religions (Judaism,, Christianity, Islam), as giving at least a false hope of something after death seems to give great comfort to many people. Too many are after all not able to deal with this inevitable part of life that is necessary part of the life cycle of all living creatures. We commonly assume that human species is the only species that spends time pondering about its own death, even if in reality we do not know if other advanced species do have ideas of their own about death or not. To be able to think about also of the end of our life is of course the price we pay for the highly developed intellectual machinery we do have in our disposal. Thanks to this ability we can do a lot of things even other primates are unable to do, but as said, there is a price even in this. One of the most basic instincts that any living thing must have is avoiding things and situations that can be lethal to it. The instinct for survival has been perfected by evolution, as those with strongest aversion to death have survived better than others. I do think that this natural and necessarily often a very strong instinct for ensuring personal

survival as long as it is possible may however contribute in creating a situation where even the idea of the inevitable death becomes too difficult to handle. This situation is used to to maximum by the Abrahamic religions, who benefit greatly from heightening this fear of death Marcus Aurelius is perhaps quite unknowingly attacking one of the pillars of Christianity, when he reminds that in the end there is really nothing to be afraid in death. However, like a true agnostic he covers all bases with the last sentence. This does not however necessarily mean that he would himself have believed in this kind transformation of the soul as is implied in the last sentence of the quote.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcus_Aurelius

by jaskaw @ 23.01.2010 - 21:38:44 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2010/01/23/marcus-aurelius-on-death-7861315/

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Julianne G [Visitor] 15.03.2010 @ 14:35 This is a simple truth, really. However most people choose to believe in soothing lies over troubling and ambiguous truths. It is not this or that, but how we handle these truths, that defines our psychological independence from society and our integrity of character.. Julianne Ross [Visitor] 10.11.2010 @ 17:12 Since the "truth" of this issue is difficult to prove, I'm reluctant to dismiss metaphors and mythology I don't agree with as lies. I am concerned about the fervor of those who accept metaphors as reality, but fear there is little that can be done to calm the fears of those people. But my having called thes lies "metaphors/mythology" is likely equally offensive to those people.

jaskaw pro http://www.beinghuman.blogs.fi 10.11.2010 @ 19:53 I am of course not fully free of the fear of death, as I think that no man can ever get rid of it completely even with the Christian ideas of eternal life. There always is the nagging question; what if you are wrong? However, I do think that after thinking over the view by Marcus Aurelius and Epicurus, I have understood in a much clearer way that worrying will just make things worse. Remember Epicurus in this blog http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2009/11/29/epicurus-on-death-7480720/: "Death is nothing to us; for that which has been dissolved into its elements experiences no sensations, and that which has no sensation is nothing to us." - Epicurus (Principal Doctrine number 2)"

Epicurus on need for natural science
"If we had never been troubled by celestial and atmospheric phenomena, nor by fears about death, nor by our ignorance of the limits of pains and desires, we should have had no need of natural science." - Epicurus (Principal doctrines, 11)

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This Epicurean Principal Doctrine is not about morality or philosophy as many of the other 39 of the 40 Epicurean Principal Doctrines are, but I see it as more of an explanation for the very human thirst for knowledge and in the end also for the birth of modern science. In my mind Epicurus is simply saying that fear of unknown does motivate people to find things out, but on the other hand really understanding why things do really happen in the world gives a person also more real peace of mind. I think that Epicureans are also saying in this doctrine that if we accept the religious explanations for things around us, we would not need no more explaining and we would not need to have science in the first place. If we simply accept the explanations religions do give us, we have no reason the find out the real causes for natural phenomena. This was also case under the rule of the medieval Christian church, when natural sciences were quite completely ignored for a whole millennium until the rise of Renaissance and new kind of humanistic thinking did open new avenues for science also. Epicurus did live in a time before the birth of the modern world religions, but even the Ancient Greek religion was for a great deal born out the need to explain the things that did not yet have on natural explanation at that time. However, this role of the religion as a place-holder for a question mark was much more marked in the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths. These religions do still boldly profess to know the final answers to most of the big questions concerning the nature of humanity and our universe, even if those answers in real world are

mostly just legends, mystical stories and even wild guesses. Only with the rise of the modern science did we start getting real answers to questions of our own origins and the real nature of our universe.

http://beinghuman.blogs.fi/tags/epicurus/

by jaskaw @ 24.01.2010 - 21:28:56 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2010/01/24/epicurus-on-need-of-natural-science-7867068/

Robert Owen on spirit of universal charity
"I was forced, through seeing the error of their foundation, to abandon all belief in every religion which had been taught to man. But my religious feelings were immediately replaced by the spirit of universal charity not for a sect, or a party, or for a country or a colour but for the human race, and with a real and ardent desire to do good." - Robert Owen in his autobiography (1857)

Robert Owen was a certifiable good person. He did spend his whole life and in the end even his personal fortune in trying to develop more humane ways to organize production of goods and in trying to create a more human model for a good society. All his achievements as a philanthropist were not negated by the fact that towards the very end of his life he did become entangled with all kinds of spiritualists and mystics also. He was a philanthropist of the first class, but he did good things because he wanted himself to be a good person and saw real value in making other peoples lives easier. He was not a good person because he would have thought that doing good things would somehow be rewarded to him, even in some kind of afterlife. In fact I do think that such goodness done just in hope of some kind of personal reward is not real goodness, but just another and more refined form of selfishness, even though even a faked goodness is of course often better than no goodness at all. It may be hard to remember that Robert Owen did live in a society where the life of ordinary men and women had no real worth. The new idea of providing at least somewhat equal opportunities and rights for all humans in a society was still a new and quite revolutionary thing. In fact these dangerous ideas was accepted only in the most radical and also often the most irreligious parts of the British society and Robert Owen was one of these radicals. Robert Owen did show by his personal example that the willingness and eagerness to help ones fellow humans can be motivated solely by the devotion to the humanistic ideals and pure unselfish love for the mankind.

by jaskaw @ 25.01.2010 - 22:10:15 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2010/01/25/robert-owen-on-spirit-of-universal-charity-7873636/

Bertrand Russell on man as a credulous animal
"Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good ground for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones." - Bertrand Russell in "An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish," in "Unpopular Essays" (1950)

One of the most important original functions of religions was to to give even some kind of an explanation to things that simply could not be truly explained at that time. Early religions offered a way to explain why world and nature behaved the way they did behave when no other explanations were readily available. Of course religions also served as tools for upholding social rules, building social cohesion and what was most important for securing the power of ruling elites and the then current type of feudal ownership and government. Their role as explanation-giver was only one factor behind their success in taking over whole societies and later even continents, but on a level of individual it was without doubt an important one. As humanity progressed there however emerged real scientific explanations for most of the things that had been explained with the aid of the religions in the past. This process slowly ate away one of the crucial founding blocks of religions. Soon religions soon had two different survival strategies open to them: they could either deny the role and importance of the new scientific findings or they could adapt to a new world that was being built around them with the aid of science. Some religions did ultimately learn to live with the fact that there finally existed real knowledge of things that had earlier been explained by them. The western protestant Christian state churches of Europe did mostly opt for the course of accepting the new role of science. Slowly but firmly they developed into a new kind of social and cultural organizations that concentrated on giving solace and certainty for people living in a world full of uncertainty. However, mainstream Islam and the many Christian fundamentalist revival movements did chose the path of confrontation with science. I do fear that even the main reason for choosing this difficult route was that they did not want to give up any of the power the religions used to have, when they were the sole givers of answers. The route chosen by the mainstream western protestant churches did also mean their ending up in the sidelines in the power-structures of the modern western societies. All religious leaders could not simply swallow this bitter pill and they would rather choose a confrontation with science. I do think that in this they were helped by the clear unwillingness very common in the scientific world to confront them.

I fear that all too many members of the world of science did think that the less of the conflict between fundamentalist religions and modern science was talked about, the better for science.

by jaskaw @ 27.01.2010 - 21:53:13 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2010/01/27/bertrand-russell-on-man-as-a-credulous-animal-7887131/

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jpfib [Member] 28.01.2010 @ 17:06 every organised religion perpetrates one or other kind of terrorism.they are created for the leaders and their cronies.they terrorise feloowmen with hell and damnation. they proclaim they hold the keys of the kingdom.who are ready to lick their feet will be allowed to enter the heaven.they are the sole custodians of god.they hate each other and compete for positions among themselves. one religion preach hatred against the other.love is the true religion.love every other being, human or otherwise.if there is true love one cannot fill one's stomach when his fellowbeing is starving.here all religious leaders make money in the name of charity.they committed and committing all kinds of crime.then theyuse money and power to get away from law and punishment.in india two priests and a nn killed another nun for witnessing their sexual misdeeds and using money and power to get away from the clutches of law.this is the religion.get away from all theses wicked people.love is the true religion.if there is love you canot compel your fellowmen to accept your views and make them your slaves. love expects nothing back. Ken [Visitor] 12.11.2010 @ 14:21 Love is just one emotion of many and is hardly a cure for whatever "ails" humanity.

Mark Twain on traditions
"Often the less there is to justify a traditional custom the harder it is to get rid it." - Mark Twain in "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" (1876)

Author Mark Twain (or Samuel Langhorne Clemens in real life) was a skeptic all his life, but he became agnostic and even atheist in his later years. It is not very commonly known, as this fact was kept as a tightly kept secret by his family for a long time. Keeping this secret was made much more easier by the Mark Twain did not want to endanger the well-being of his family with coming out in the open in his lifetime. A person coming out in these matters was simply asking for trouble in his time. Majority of his various writings criticizing religions were kept behind locks for decades before the family secret was finally spilled out. There is even reason to believe that some of the most explosive writings are still under wraps. In my mind Mark Twain is in this quote referring to a extraordinary ability inherent in all societies to keep up traditions whose real meaning is not very clear to anyone. However, the force of tradition is one of the strongest social forces there is. These traditions are all too often upheld, even if nobody really knows what are the benefits they will give to the society. One of the main beneficiaries of this very human failing has of course always been religion. Once a religion has got the upper hand in any society, the immense force of tradition has made upholding its power an incredibly easier task than the original acquiring of the position of power in a society was. Judaism is of course a main example of this extraordinary and inexplainable force of tradition. For very many of the more secular Jews their Jewishness consists simply of mechanical repeating of certain acts in given moments of the year, but the reason why these acts really are seen as necessary is not even questioned. It seems that for very many Jewishness is just a harmless collection of customs and traditions, but there is also a more negative side to all this. These traditions are used to create a strong sense of community among all followers of Jewish traditions, that the fundamentalist and ultra-conservative forces among Jewish community have learned to use to their great advantage. This happens even if in real terms they often have extraordinarily little in common with the more secular forms of Jewishness.

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by jaskaw @ 28.01.2010 - 23:19:50 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2010/01/28/mark-twain-on-traditions-7894321/

Stephen Weinberg on good and evil
"With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil that takes religion." - Stephen Weinberg in "A Designer Universe?

This quote by Nobel laureate Stephen Weinberg is already a classic among freethinking and atheist circles. The quote is of course so popular because it contains an immense truth. There is always even a majority of people in any society that are good and and well-mannered under all normal circumstances. These people are very often drawn to religions as they seem to secure order and certainty in a world seemingly full of chaos in uncertainty. On the other hand in every society there are sociopaths, psychopaths and people who just don't fit in the society. They will very easily end up outside the socially acceptable mode of behavior notwithstanding what is the ruling religion in any given society. One could even argue that the more strict the codes of conduct are in a society, the more people will end up hitting the walls of allowed behavior. The main point of Stephen Weinberg however is the religious dogma has in innumerable cases caused good, peace-loving and law-abiding citizens to attack, torment and kill their quite similar good, peace-loving law-abiding neighbors just because they believe in wrong kind of religious dogma or worst of all have no dogma at all. The saddest part of course is that these good fathers and husbands have throughout the history been lauded as champions of the faith. They are all too often rewarded handsomely by the society, when they kill and maim people just because they harbor wrong kinds of thoughts. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Weinberg

by jaskaw @ 29.01.2010 - 20:27:11 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2010/01/29/stephen-weinberg-on-good-and-evil-7899963/

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Adelaide Dupont [Visitor] http://duponthumanite.livejournal.com 30.01.2010 @ 04:08 For good people to do evil, it takes passion + ideology. Passion blinds us to 'wrong' thoughts and ideology excuses them. | Show subcomments jaskaw pro http://www.beinghuman.blogs.fi 01.02.2010 @ 22:41 You are quite right Adelaide, in the name of passionately felt communist ideology there has been done even more harm in numerical terms than in the name of religions. PS. Gmail has for a while gotten these messages for comments in my blogs in the spam-folder and I did not know of your comments. That is the reason for the late reply, sorry.

John Stuart Mill on want of ideas
"God is a word to express, not our ideas, but the want of them." - John Stuart Mill

I do think that a great quote is one which can include in one sentence ideas that can take a whole book to explain. For me this classical quote by John Stuart Mill is one of those things that put a whole section of human endeavor under new kind of light. I do think that John Stuart Mill is highlighting here the fact that a very important function of the religions has always been giving explanations to things that have had no real explanation. Religion has in fact very often been just a substitute for a question mark, as the answers provided by religions have simply been better than no kind of answer at all. Of course this function is still present, even if the mysteries in our physical environment do not need religious explanations in similar way than 2000 years ago. Science has finally provided us with some real answers and removed the need for using the substitutes that used to be provided by the religions. There will however always remain some metaphysical questions that will never have a clear cut answer, like "Why are we here" and "What is the meaning of life". Science will never provide answers to questions like this, as they are basically ideological questions. Answers to questions like this are based on values and not on bare facts alone, as there is no "truth" in things like this, but answers are really often chosen by their efficiency in giving comfort. Religions are seemingly good at giving answers to these deepest metaphysical question. However when these answers are put under a closer scrutiny it is all too often revealed that they just seem to be real answers, but in fact they are just wishful thinking and smokescreens that can hide a lack of any real and meaningful answers. However, the current religions are not only ones giving answers to metaphysical questions. The history of philosophy is a tale of the brightest minds of their day in search for meaningful answers to very similar questions. Philosophers have also found many good and even magnificent answers, but the difference is that they are not presented as final and unswerving dogma as similar answers are presented in religious connexions. Modern secular humanism is basically based on these philosophical ideas and it provides a good set of answers to all major question troubling people. However, they are not final truths, but they are the best answers we can give based an on the knowledge we really do have.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Stuart_Mill http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanism

by jaskaw @ 30.01.2010 - 14:38:08 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2010/01/30/john-stuart-mill-on-want-of-ideas-7904002/

Bertrand Russell on the lack of exact truth
"Although this may seem a paradox, all exact science is dominated by the idea of approximation. When a man tells you that he knows the exact truth about anything, you are safe in inferring that he is an inexact man." - Bertrand Russell in "The Scientific Outlook" (1931)

This idea presented by Bertrand Russell may seem odd at first glance, as we have very often learned to see science as something very exact and rigid. A fact of life is that the current central findings of science are often presented as some kind of absolute truths in schools at least, even if this kind of thinking is exactly the opposite of the true scientific method. True science does not have any final truths, as there just must always be the ability to take every single scientific fact and theory under new scrutiny. There always must exist also the possibility to modify and correct it, if it then proves to be wrong in some way. For example also the current theory of gravity must be corrected, if we get new information on its nature, even if this theory has been quite unchanged and unchallenged for a very long time. Science gives good, great and even magnificent answers about the most important questions concerning human life and universe, but they are never final and unchanging answers. As Bertrand Russell says science is art of approximation based on available facts. As the facts change, must the answers given by science change too. Of course a degree of rigidity is inbuilt in this system, as to change well-established scientific findings one needs really compelling new evidence and getting them accepted can be a tedious and long job. This inbuilt inertia however makes sure that the central scientific explanations do not change in a whim of a single genius for example. The international scientific community makes thorough checks on all new ideas before they are universally accepted. However, Bertrand Russell is here referring to those who claim to have found exact and final answers to the big questions concerning for example the nature of life and universe. They are however normally not scientists at all, but followers of different kinds of ideologies that claim to know the 'final truth', which is of course different in every single ideology.

by jaskaw @ 31.01.2010 - 21:10:36 http://thelittlebook.blogs.fi/2010/01/31/bertrand-russell-on-exact-truth-7912715/

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jaskaw (Jaakko Wallenius), male, 52 years old, Lohja, , speaks Finnish (FI) (English version at bottom) Uusi ja yllättävä tieto on aina ollut minulle ylivoimaisesti parasta viihdettä. Rakkaus historiaan syttyi jo kansankouluaikana, mutta viime vuosina melkoisesti aikaa on vienyt myös tietotekniikkaan syventyminen. Opiskelin aikoinaan historiaa, sosiologiaa ja valtio-oppia, mutta lyhyeksi jäänyt poliittinen ura vei miehen pian mukanaan. Jo yli 20 vuotta sitten alkoi nykyinen taloustoimittajan ura. Asun pienessä omakotitalossa pienessä kaupungissa vaimon, kahden koiran, kahden lapsen ja viime laskun mukaan 14 kalan kanssa. Korjailen toimittajan päätyöni ohella sivutoimisena yrittäjänä hyvien kaupunkilaisten tietokoneita. New information has always been the best form of entertainment for me. My everlasting love for history started at the elementary school at tender age of nine, when I did read the 600 pages of The Pocket World History, admittedly skipping the dull parts about culture... I have studied history, political history, political science and journalism in universities of Turku and Tampere, but have never graduated from neither. A brief but tempestuous political career blew the man prematurely to to wide world from the comforting womb of university. A more steady career in journalism followed and I have been a professional writer and journalist for the past 20 years. At present I live in a small town in a small house with a wife, two not so small teenagers, two middle-sized dogs and 14 fish of various sizes. By day I work as a journalist writing about local economy in our local newspaper. Its a job i have held for the past 20 years. In the evenings and week-ends I repair the computers of the good citizens of our little town as a private entrepreneur.

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