Wednesday 30 March 2011

Fund Raising Dinner Sydney Atheists Big Day Out

Sydney Atheists are planning a bus trip to increase the profile of atheism as legitimate viewpoint. In the week before Easter we'll be visiting iconic place in Sydney in our own luxury transport, a double-decker London bus, prominently bearing our message "No god? No worries". We will also use the opportunity to deliver a petition on the National Chaplaincy to Julia Gillard in Kirribilli.
Sydney Atheist Bus
On 2nd of April we will have fundraising dinner. It is at Cafe Well Connected on Glebe Pt Rd in Gelbe. The dinner is $50 ($30 with concession). At this dinner you'll have the opportunity to win two of the best seats in the bus, the front row, upstairs.
This dinner will be on a first come first served basis, so if you want to get in, RSVP ASAP.  Go to either our meetup, or our facebook page. If you cannot make it, but want to see the bus driving, feel free to donate.
More details on the bus campaign will be made available closer to the event.

Originally posted by ansgar

Monday 28 March 2011

Sapolsky on Religion

This video talk on is 80 minutes long, but fascinating all the way through. (a disorder that makes you wash your hands was a survival trait before the discovery of hygiene!)

Prof. Robert Sapolsky Bio 150/250, Spring 2002 Human Behavioral Biology

The Biology of Religion

I. Some opening caveats, disclaimers and fine print

II. Religion and belief

1. A return to the final question of the schizophrenia lecture

2. Genes and the advantages of intermediate penetrance: sickle cell anemia, Tay-Sachs disease, cystic fibrosis....and schizophrenia?

3. The Kety schizophrenia adoption studies: their second discovery, and the continuum of traits.

4. Schizotypal personality disorder: social withdrawal, odd perceptual experiences, a tendency towards concreteness, metamagical belief.

5. Who are the traditional schizotypals?

a. Paul Radin, Erwin Ackerknecht and Paul Devereux: hearing voices at the right time

b. Alfred Kroeber’s elaboration: “Psychosis or Social Sanction.” The common roots of ‘sanction’ and ‘sanctuary.’

c. Western cultures and schizotypalism

III. Religion and ritualistic practices

1. Obsessive compulsive disorder

a. Obsessive thoughts: intrusions, blasphemies, and so on.

b. Compulsive rituals: self-cleansing, food preparation, leaving and entering, numerology and symmetry

c. Genetic, neuroanatomical and neurochemical hints

2. Ritualism of the religious orthodoxy

3. Hindu Brahmans: hours of daily purification rituals involving cleansing, cyclical nostril breathing, defecation, ratios of handfuls of food from the left versus right hand, rules for entering temples....

4. Orthodox Jewry and the magical combination of 365 prohibitions and 248 requirements: cleansing, food preparation, and the importance of numerology over content.

5. Orthodox Islam: rules for numbers of mouthfuls of water, for entering and leaving a lavatory, for handwashing, and, of course, magical numbers.

6. The rituals of Orthodox Christianity: the magical number 3, the multiplicities of Hail Marys and rosary use down to Lutheran organists advised about dotted rhythms in the Lutheran hymnal

7. Freud: “obsessional neurosis as individual religiosity and religion as a universal obsessional neurosis.”

8. Ignatius Loyola and the 15th century concept of “scrupulosity.”

9. The underlying adaptive value of anxiety reduction

10. Making a living as an obsessive compulsive

a. An example in a 16th century monk named Luder: “The more you cleanse yourself, the dirtier you get.”

11. Why should OCD and religious rituals have such similar patterns?

a. An ecological explanation

b. A historical explanation

IV. Religion and the attribution of causality

1. Superstitious conditioning in animals

2. Hippocampal damage and increased vulnerability to superstitious conditioning.

V. Philosophical religiosity

1. Temporal lobe epilepsy: humorlessness; perseveration; neophobia and a "sticky" or "viscous" personality; hypergraphia; concern with religious issues.

Some concluding thoughts: What am I not saying

1. You gotta be crazy to be religious

2. That most people’s religiousness is biologically suspect

3. That faith is any more biologically accessible or interesting than is loss of faith

Some further readings:

Mark Saltzman, Lying Awake (a superb novel about the religious implications of temporal lobe epilepsy).

David S Wilson, Darwin’s Cathedral. 2002 Univ. Chicago Press. Religious groups as units of selection.
Sapolsky. “Circling the blanket for God.” In: The Trouble With Testosterone’ and Other Essays on the Biology of the Human Predicament.

Originally posted by Ian Woolf

Thursday 10 March 2011

Australian Census Campaign

Say where you are now, not where you used to be.
Don't enter your childhood religion on the Census if you've left it behind.
Lets give the Government accurate information so they don't believe that you believe in banning Stem Cell Research, Abortion rights, and Free Speech.

Due to a misreading of public sentiment, we have such blatantly unconstitutional practices as religious observance forced in Parliament, and religious tests being applied to Government appointments in State schools. We have millions in Government funding to send Catholics to Rome, and for organising World Catholic Youth Day. Don't write "Jedi", the Bureau of Statistics won't count it. Stand up and be counted.

Originally posted by Ian Woolf