Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Quote for the Day: Ann Dillard

A Ugandan walked up to a christian missionary and asked: "If I didn't know about God, sin and Hell, would I go there?"
"Well, no, you couldn't", replied the missionary.
"Then why did you tell me about them?" asked the Ugandan.

Annie Dillard.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dog: Man's best friend - for Eons?

World's first dog lived 31,700 years ago, ate big

Discovery could push back the date for the earliest dog by 17,700 years

Ancient, 26,000-year-old footprints made by a child and a dog at Chauvet Cave, France, support the pet notion. Torch wipes accompanying the prints indicate the child held a torch while navigating the dark corridors accompanied by a dog.

And a related blog entry that asks whether Neanderthal extinction may have been related to a lack of dog-empathy.

Why Are the Neanderthals Extinct?

23-November-2008 · 17 Comments

"This brings us to where we started this article — dogs! Our idea is that while humans formed an early and mutually beneficial relationship with dogs, the Neanderthals never did; and that is what made all the difference." -The Sensuous Curmudgeon

As a dog lover, of course I'm biased toward agreeing with this hypothesis. I won't say I do so without evidence, but it is certainly a charming notion (apart from the more squeamish thoughts of mutual survivability in times of starvation). I'm going to have to watch this Curmudgeon for a while. Maybe add him to my 'reader' list.

Pale Blue Dot

Monday, December 8, 2008

Monday, December 1, 2008



Friday, November 28, 2008

Crib Notes from Andy Thompsons "Why we believe in gods" lecture.

Religion may be a bi-product of other common, well-understood cognitive mechanisms (or adaptations) that evolved to solve survival problems not related to religion or faith.

Some of these mechanisms include:

Minimally Counter-intuitive Aspects: When we picture god(s), we attribute them with all the normally expected attributes of another thinking, conscious being. god(s) think, and feel, and are presented as vulnerable to all the same emotional and cognitive weaknesses that humans are. With a few “minimal” exceptions that step outside of our intuitive expectations. god(s) talk to us (in our minds), god(s) know what we are doing (because they are presented as omnipresent), god(s) know what we are thinking (because they are presented as omniscient), etc… But we still imagine them as thinking and feeling much the same way that we imagine ourselves to. We are more prone to accept something with minimal detours into the counter-intuitive than things that are firmly counter-intuitive. (Yes I understand the soon to be voiced problems with use of the word minimal in this example....)

Decoupled Cognition: We can envision and enact conversations with absent family members, deceased family members, etc.
(Some of us can envision conversations with god(s) and can further carry that conversation into an imagined or projected 2-way dialogue - using simple decoupled cognition to fill in the blanks of what our god(s) reactions might be to these conversations - interestingly this might explain why our mythological miracle makers seem to have a very anthropomorphized ability to perform miraculous events that seem to be limited or tied to the cultural understanding of the time of their origin.)

Reciprocal Altruism: We have cognitive mechanisms that automatically keep track of who we owe and who owes us. We track these things (to varying degrees) automatically.
(Religion is full of reciprocity. Just look at some of the “IF you do this...” and “IF you don’t do this...” messages inherent in nearly all religions.)

Childhood Credulity: Our cognitive development leaves children and adolescents open to the influence and suggestion of authority figures in their lives. So much so that they soak up the culture that surrounds them and adapt it as the status quo. This aids in the rapid learning of survival behaviours. It also allows for the infiltration of non-survival and/or toxic learning if presented from recognized authority figures like Parents, Teachers, Religious figures of authority, etc…

Vulnerability to Authority: all humans are vulnerable - to varying degrees - to figures of authority. IF we perceive an instruction as sourced in suffiecient authority, we may follow it even if it would otherwise be an instruction to perform a repulsive, abhorrent or out-of-character action.
(It should be fairly obvious how this relates to religion and authority structures inherent in same. Ref: Stanley Milgram -

Attachment System: When we are in distress - at all ages of life - we turn to a care-taker figure. Whether that be a parent when a child or adolescent, a spouse or partner when an adult, or some other care-taker figure we hope will succor us from our distress, this mechanism is present in all of us.
(This mechanism is likely responsible, in part, for romantic love and parental attachment. It should be fairly obvious how religion might make use of this mechanism and allow us to turn to a super-parent, per se. Ref: Letters of Mother Theresa indicating her “falling in love with jesus”, “getting married to jesus” etc...)

Transference: We base our present relationships on past relationships. We learn as children how to treat relationships. Our perceptions use this to form images of people like “Fatherly Figure” or “Good Motherly Figure” etc…

The Problem of Dead Bodies: We have “theory of mind” mechanisms that allow us to project a mind (somewhat like our own) into other people. We imagine them as having similar thought processes, motives, and emotions. When we’re confronted with dead bodies we recognize (from physical clues) that there is no life present, but our “theory of mind” mechanism continues to look for the thought, feelings, emotions etc that we expect to find there.
(It should be fairly obvious how this mechanism might relate to some religious concepts of continued consciousness or mind, after death.)

Hyperactive Agent Detection/Attribution: We all have mechanisms inherent that look for a cause where there may not be a cause. Sounds we hear at the edge of conscious audibility might be translated into ‘whispers’ or ‘other anthropomorphized’ sources. There is a strong benefit to experiencing false positives with this function over the potentially fatal repercussions of experiencing a false negative using this mechanism. We may see 1000 imaginary tigers in the trees and suffer no ill consequence, but to miss just a single tiger that is actually there could have fatal consequences.

Intuitive Reasoning: We fill in the blanks. When we don’t actually have knowledge, our brain attempts to fill in blanks in our knowledge.
(Hyperactive Agent Detection helps us to try to fill in these blanks with humanized or anthropomorphized reasons. Many optical illusions work using this mechanism where will envision a line that completes a ‘shape’ that may not exist. See attached image. Our mind creates the edges of a white-triangle where one does not actually exist.)

Motivated Reasoning: We doubt what we don’t want to hear.
(We don’t change beliefs easily, because this may put us at odds with the group (adopted kin) and that, in the past, was a counter-survival trait.)

Confirmation Bias: We tend to look for evidence that corroborates our opinions, or notice data that confirms our beliefs (much more so than data that does the opposite or is neutral to our opinions and beliefs) - sometimes even when presented with evidence to the contrary.

Mere Familiarity: We favour what is familiar (tradition) over something new or relatively unknown.

Belief in Belief: We have a bias toward belief. Our brain is set up to ‘form opinions’ rapidly - we perceive, form opinion or believe, then at leisure may pause and think about that which we’ve formed opinions about.
(Example - in the past, if a tribe-mate told us there was a tiger behind a tree, it would be a net positive survival mechanism to believe that claim, even if there were no tiger behind said tree. Another example of false positives being far more survival focused than any single false negative. Ref: Some republicans continuing to hound upon Obama as being a terrorist. If we continue to hear something, our cognitive mechanisms tend towards believing that - in spite of evidence to the contrary.)

Kin Recognition: We have strong tendencies to favour ‘kin’ over ‘non-kin’ in our social mentation - sorting our world into “kin” and “Near-Kin” and “not kin”.
(Interestingly, religion is rife with false or appropriated Kin-Terminology to describe figures of importance {to the religion} - Father for Priest/Minister/Pastor, Brother for Monk, Sister for Nun, etc.... Further there were - in the past - some very real benefits for ‘religion’ and ‘survival’ inherent in the artificial expansion of Kin-Perception in people belonging to a religious group.)

Mirror Neurons: If you were in a room with another person and they raised their left arm - that portion of their brain that controls the left arm, right motor cortex - would light up with activity. So would your brain. If that person hurt their left hand, their right-thalamus would light up with activity in response to that pain. So would your right-thalamus, even though your hand was not injured. You would literally feel the other person’s pain (to a reduced degree).

All these mechanisms, if appropriated by religion, can play upon our cognitive functions to reinforce the stories and functions religions attempts to appropriate - Particularly in artificial-kin environments.

EG: saviour mythology co-opting our cognitive mechanisms: artificial-kin, authority figure, agent attributed, decoupled mental conversationalist, object of reciprocal altruism, authority figure, super-brother/parent/caregiver, transferred-kin, object of attachment, source of intuitive answers to metaphysical questions, source of confirmation biased opinion/faith, familiar, playing upon mirror neurons with readily available images of suffering

This post is composed of crib notes taken by myself while listening to a lecture by Andy Thompson. All attribution, sourcing, credits, etc. should be directed toward his comprehensive research.

Andy Thompson's lecure is available for download or viewing here:,3373,Why-we-believe-in-gods,J-Anderson-Thomson

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I still think I want a Yurt - 21 Century Style


Round Kitchens

Ultra-mod round kitchen

Ultra-mod Round Kitchen 2

Loft: Open to Below

Loft 2

Stunning night view

Another stunning night view

So, I found a site at for an Oregon Company that makes round-homes in yurt-like fashion - utilizing the same wall-strap to hold the whole house together. These, however, look and act just like a real home at a fraction of the cost! They had a blog: On their blog I found a link to a flickr album from which I scooped these images. They are a reminder for me in my thinking about alternate dwellings. They are the property of their originator and not my own. I do think, however, that they illustrate some of the best of Yurt-dom out there, and serve as an excellent inspiration piece.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I think I want a Yurt.

A yurt is a traditional Mongolian semi-permanent round tent structure used by the nomadic tribesmen as mobile-homes. They would disassemble them and cart them on to the next camp site. They were made from sticks, and hides and cords. They look sorta primitive. Until you look at 20th Century Technology in a Yurt. Like this one:

There are some modern companies out there that produce Yurts.
They have 2-story yurts.

They have winged Yurts.

As an occasional use vacation dwelling, with an eye toward retirement dwelling in a semi-rural or fully rural location, I think this structure has a lot of promise.
I just wonder if I can improve on these designs somewhat.

I was thinking, for the Canadian climate:
A central hearth and fireplace with chimney running up through the center of the dome.

This could serve 3 or 4 purposes at once:

- It could support the roof if excess snow-load occurs.

- It could support some sophisticated water catchment technology that might allow for gray-water natural water utilization.

- It could be built massive - out of natural stone work, with wings out into dividers of the living space (like kitchen island and bedroom/bathroom wall divider - allowing for a large thermal mass, heated by a double-sided fireplace, to warm the interior on cold winter nights.
If a high efficiency 2-sided insert were purchased for this spot, it could burn for 20+ hours on a single charge of fuel.
- It could divide the room and provide some nice eye-candy. Imagine a slate wall with chimney running up through the roof of the Yurt - out of which projects both the Kitchen Island Peninsula and the heated wall dividing the master bedroom and the shower area.
Sounds sexy - in my mind's eye. The other thing I like about the Yurt is that its a very voluminous space in a small footprint. Especially if one adds wings or a second story.

I personally think a sleeping loft above the main great room, with utilities, bath, and part of the kitchen under the loft part, and a double-height living space could be very very sexy. This also has the added benefit of allowing the heated thermal mass dividing wall between kitchen and bath (downstairs) to run the full height (upstairs) dividing the sleeping areas with even more heated stone volume.

I definitely need to think more about this, but if I can get one of these built on a slab heated with geothermal heating, gray water catchment, thermal mass additional heating for really cold times in the winter, this could be a really efficient vacation/retirement home. If I back it with the right insulation, long-life roofing solution, and a decent water purification system, this could almost be the perfect expandable retirement home setup.

Yup. I want a yurt.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

How the 2008 Obama Election isn't a Sign of Change

In spite of the optimism surrounding Obama's election by the people of the US, there are some Liberty Limiting mob-rule ballots out there bringing down the overall positive of the election for many.

Florida and Arkansas are not really all that surprising, but I was sorta hoping that California residents would not vote in Prop 8.

Now the State Supreme Courts have their work cut out for them - especially in California where some gay couples HAVE married - setting up a situation of special and different liberties for some, but not all homosexual couples. Lets hope the SC does the right thing.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Power of Reversing Psychology

Don't Vote.

Not only does this ad use reverse psychology, but continues on to reverse its psychology. Clever. Wonder if it will be effective.

And the amusing follow-up.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hydrogenase Loaded Bacteria may answer Renewable Energy question?

Metabolic Engineering to Enhance Bacterial Hydrogen Production

TAMUS 2520 represents a major breakthrough in the biological generation of hydrogen. Researchers at the Texas Engineering Experiment Station have developed a modified strain of bacteria that produces orders of magnitude more hydrogen than the associated naturally found organism. Modification of the genes involved in the hydrogenase pathway has allowed this genetically engineered strain of bacteria to produce hydrogen at over 100 times the rate of the baseline. The technology is a major advancement in the metabolic engineering of bacteria and biological hydrogen production.

Interesting. Now how will this translate to profits for Big Oil?

Quest For Fire: 788 000 B.C.E.

Firemaking 790 000 years ago.

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A new study shows that humans had the ability to make fire nearly 790,000 years ago, a skill that helped them migrate from Africa to Europe.

By analysing flints at an archaeological site on the bank of the river Jordan, researchers at Israel's Hebrew University discovered that early civilizations had learned to light fires, a turning point that allowed them to venture into unknown lands.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Pic of the Day: Saviour Located at South-Pole

Musta been a shitty day for the messiah.

Quote for the Day

''The federal government is sending each of us a $600 rebate. If we spend that money at Wal-Mart, the money goes to China . If we spend it on gasoline it goes to the Arabs. If we buy a computer it will go to India . If we purchase fruit and vegetables it will go to Mexico ,Honduras and Guatemala . If we purchase a good car it will go to Germany. If we purchase useless crap it will go to Taiwan and none of it will help the American economy. The only way to keep that money here at home is to spend it on prostitutes and beer, since these are the only products still produced in US. I've been doing my part." - Dr. Marc Faber - Investment Analyst


Fun satire.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Star Trek tee's from the new movie at Think Geek (dot) com.

To boldly go where no red-shirt has gone before!

Friday, October 3, 2008


Ambrosia - often described as godly food that imbued the consumer with immortality.
This dish, while some kind of awesome, is possibly anti-Ambrosia.

The Hamburger Fatty Melt, a Burger with Two Grilled Cheese Sandwiches as Its Bun

Photographs by Robyn Lee


What you are looking at, ladies and gents, is what we at A Hamburger Today are calling the Hamburger Fatty Melt. Lemme give you the smack on this meat stack. From top to bottom:

  • Grilled cheese sandwich as bun top
  • Four-ounce beef patty
  • Grilled cheese sandwich as bottom bun

Got that? It's a burger with two grilled cheese sandwiches as its bun.

I wish our R&D department here at AHT HQ could claim this as the product of our grease-addled minds, but we're only following through on a burger we heard about via Serious Eats community member Theadob, who mentioned the "Chubby Melt" at the Mossy Creek Cafe in Fisherville, Virginia (burger between two grilled cheese sandwiches, smothered with sautéed onions and mushrooms and topped with Thousand Island dressing).

I vowed to recreate one of my own, but with some tweaks. I thought Mossy Creek pretty much had it right until it ladled on the toppings. Something as glorious as a burger with TWO GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICHES AS ITS BUN needs little else adorning it.

So stop what you're doing right now and go out and get the following ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • Pepperidge Farm Very Thin white bread
  • Kraft Deli Deluxe American cheese slices—yellow, not white, fool!
  • Butter
  • A juicy tomato

Now follow me here for the recipe: The Hamburger Fatty Melt

Monday, September 29, 2008

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Uof C Professor Embarasses Self

From the online edition of the Calgary Herald:

It's no wonder evangelical atheists need to shout so loud

Every faith, the dogmatic atheists say, contains a seed of violence and torment

Barry Cooper,
U of C Prof of Political Science
For The Calgary Herald

Published: Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The shining example of free thinking said to characterize the French Enlightenment was Voltaire. In the face of dogmatic clerics, both Protestant and Catholic, he urged reasonable people everywhere to "crush the infamous thing."

His argument was as obvious then as it is today: organized religion not only divides humanity into believers and infidels, it authorizes the former, with a beatific smile, to extinguish the latter. Often religion claims to be doing so for the good of the infidel.

That Voltaire had Christianity in mind is indicated by a rather more vulgar expression from his pen: "the people will not be free until the last king is strangled in the guts of the last priest."

Modern would-be Voltaires such as Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins are just as strident in their hatred of religion in general and revealed religion in particular. "

For one thing, the quotation comes from Deiderot, not Voltaire. For another thing, the article is chock-full of strawmen fallacies, prejudicial broad-stroke discrimination, misrepresentation and plain ignorance.

Welcome to the wonderful world of a PhD gone wrong.
Makes me ashamed of our University here in Calgary.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Birth of Truth

A parable:

When Truth was born, three good fairies came to her crib, and each one gave her a gift:

- The first gift would make her absolute.
- The second gift would make her objective.
- The third gift would make her deal with reality.

By an oversight, the wicked fairy was not invited, and did what wicked fairies do in such circumstances: she cursed Truth. By her curse, Truth would never enjoy more than two gifts simultaneously.

And thus Truth developed a personality split - into three parts:

As Mathematical/Formal Truth, she is absolute and objective, but does not deal with reality.

As Theologic Truth (where she underwent a further split into many sub-persons), she is absolute and deals with reality, but is not objective. Islamic Truth is different from Christian Truth, which is in turn split into Catholic and Protestant Truth ....

As Scientific Truth, she is objective and deals with the real world, but not absolute. Scientific statements are always approximations to nature.

Borrowed from an online discussion forum, authour's pseudonym: HRG

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Oldest Humans (yet found)

From National Geographic

Christine Dell'Amore
National Geographic News
August 14, 2008

Dinosaur hunters have stumbled across the largest and oldest Stone Age cemetery in the Sahara desert.

Paleontologist Paul Sereno and his team were scouring the rocks between harsh dunefields in northern Niger for dinosaur bones in 2000 when they stumbled across the graveyard, on the shores of a long-gone lake.

The scientists eventually uncovered 200 burials of two vastly different cultures that span five thousand years—the first time such a site has been found at a single site.

Called Gobero, the area is a uniquely preserved record of human habitation and burials from the Kiffian (7700 to 6200 B.C.) and the Tenerian (5200 to 2500 B.C.) cultures, says a new study led by Sereno of the University of Chicago.

Bones that are almost 10,000 years old. And complex burial rights indicating reverence for the departed through the presence of pollen that may indicate flowers used in the burial ceremony.
This is just cool.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Home Theater Basement - Pondering Acoustic Fabric for Acoustic Wall Panels

I ordered samples of the special acoustic fabric from Guilford of Maine fabric manufacturer.

We'll see how the samples look in situ before ordering.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

It's Just (dr.) Horrible!

Sadly the Hulu version of Dr. Horrible with advertisements is now only available in the US.

I'm pulling this down so as not to tease my fellow Canucks.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Steampunk Love, Ingenuity and a bit of real history:

World's First Submarine: 1775

There is no doubt that Bushnell's Turtle - a submarine designed to help break the British blockade of New York harbour during the US Civil War was a masterpiece of epic and "Steampunk" proportions.

Made from a huge log hewn in half and shaped to be hollow, the idea was that this little sub would allow the pilot to attach a bomb to a British ship while undetected underwater.

A study of its reproduction can be found at

Friday, July 25, 2008

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Changing Face of Calgary



This rendering apparently includes all of the currently approved real estate developments for the downtown core and belt line area. (2008).

This rendering is what Calgary would look like if the Burj project from Dubai (Tallest Sky Scraper in the world) was transplaned to downtown Calgary.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Where's Chthulhu?

Astronomy Picture of the Day, June 18, 2003

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Official Government Issued Gas Coupons.

Order of Canada - Returned

In the wake of Dr. Henry Morgentaler being awarded the Order of Canada for his commitment to women's rights, a spate of other recipients are threatening to return their own awards.

Gilbert Finn, former Leiutenant Governer of New Brunswick.

Rev. Lucien Larre

So instead of being a symbol of recognition for service to Canadians, these men have transformed this honour into a tool to be used for political grandstanding. It would be the same as an Atheist refusing the order because a Theist had received it in the past, or a Theist (like Rev. Lucien) returning the order if it were awarded to an open Atheist.

Shameful, really, when politics can mar the symbol of admiration used to celebrate a person's contribution to Canadian Society.

"Defenders of Science shouldn't let the sophits carry the day."


"Third, today's sophists exploit a public misconception about what science is, portraying it as a structure of complete consensus built from the steady accumulation of unassailable data. Any dissent is cited as evidence that there's no consensus, and thus that truth must not have been discovered yet.

A more accurate portrayal of science recognizes it to be a process of debate among a community of experts in which the side with superior evidence and argument wins. Unanimity of belief never exists, but the process of science moves forward with the weight of a supermajority.

It is perverse to continue debating an issue that has already been settled for the vast majority of scientists merely so that policymakers will delay action, or so that the losing side can be taught on an equal footing in the classroom.

Aristotle believed that things that are true "have a natural tendency to prevail over their opposites" but that it takes a skilled user of rhetoric to defeat sophisticated sophistry. I concur. The manufactured controversy must be exposed for what it is — the assertion of an important scientific debate where none exists.

Science will continue to be the victim of anti-science sophistry until the defenders of science learn to use my field — rhetoric — to achieve what Aristotle envisioned for it: to make strong arguments carry the day before an audience of non-experts."


Indeed. The "Teach the Controversy" school of debate often must first manufacture a controversy. "Manufactroversy". What is the best response to a "Manufactroversy"? IS it ridicule, illumination of the fallacies inherent, satire, responsive sophistry, or a combination of these and more?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Home Theatre - Basement Update - Soffit Work

View from the Projection wall:

Left-hand Stub:

Right-hand - past the projector barn:

The infamous Custom-cut:
(Measure 10 times, still cut twice....*#$#%&!!)

Over the Wet Bar:

I know. Progress is slow, but we're getting there slowly but surely.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Overlapping Map of Morality

Part 1.

(Please bear in mind that any personal opinions or opinions pertaining to group morals or group ethics are formulated from my personal opinion and should only be treated as a personal opinion, and not as an attempt to dictate, interpret, or impose morals or ethical instructions on others.)

I’m going to lead into my argument with my contention that the Presuppositional Apologia for Morality is flawed. In my opinion, it fails to take into account the overlapping map of morality.

A Presuppositionalist Apologetic's stated position that non-theists cannot account for objective morality without god (meaning the christian god?) starts with a number of assumptive leaps that beg for examination from the outset. Further this stated dependency on the christian god seems to discount dependencies that that moral set had on cultural influences, moral stories, and the deconstructed mythology that was contemporary to early christians, and more importantly to the members of the Council of Nicea - in which the bible (and its containing morality) were canonized. What isn’t clear is whether Clay’s stated position also depends on the accuracy of biblical history or not. This will also bear examination in order to evaluate the Presuppositional Apologia.

This post I’m going to concentrate mainly on the overlapping map of morality. (This is my own proposition to the debate, and should be treated as my own opinion only). If we examine the pillars of 21 century moral codes we will find that there are many different instruction guides for acceptable behaviour. Each major faith has a set of principals they use to instruct behaviours in their followers. Christians have the 10 C’s. Judaism has the 10 C’s (predecessor to the slightly altered Christian 10 C’s) and mosaic law. Sikh’s have 12 main Principals. Buddhism has the three guiding philosophies of Sila, Samadhi and Prajna. Islam has ~23 distinct instructions for ethical behaviour. Hindus have ~20 distinct instructions (commandments?) that are presented for ethical behaviour. Secular society has judicial guidelines for ethical behaviour (that vary somewhat from country to country). Jainism has as set of instructional principals that guide moral behaviour.

It seems that every societal grouping has an urge to develop a set of ethical instructions to guide those decisions and actions that they term to be moral behaviour. The interesting part about all of this is where the overlaps occur. Common instructions created by cultures separated geographically and temporally. Instructions for behaviour that pre-date any biblical historicity, that are not encompassed in any single culture or societal subgroup. Overlaps that have only one factor in common.

If you view the image below, you’ll see a sketch I made of the Overlapping Map of Morality. It is notably absent of specific features other than colourful overlapping blobs, and concentric decreasing divisions. This is intentional.

With this unlabelled map depicted by overlapping coloured circles and decreasing concentric rings defining areas in which these circles overlap, we are free to arrange the ‘ethical instructions’ on this map – displaying where maximum overlap is achieved (those ethical instructions that seem to be prevalent in many cultures – and displaying those in other regions where fewer or no overlap occurs (those ethical instructions that seem to come only from a single culture or cultural sub-groups).

What becomes very interesting examining those ethical instructions that have the most universality along side those ethical instructions that seem to be native only to a single or a few interconnected sub-groups.

Below we see the Overlapping Map of Morality showing the interplay between the 10 C’s (christian and jewish combined) and the ~23 Islamic Instructions. Note the similarities.

In the above comparison between christian moral imperatives and islamic moral imperatives, we see quite a few straight up overlaps in instruction. (those guiding principals in the center section, grey text)

- No other gods
- No murder
- No stealing
- No lying
- No adultery

What is interesting is that we see some islamic instructions that may not be offensive to christians. (those guiding principals in the right-hand blue section, in red text)

-No denying god
- Defend your nation
- No broken promises (which could probably be included in the no lying instruction)
- No oppression
- No scandal

(There are some fuzzy areas in the no oppression and no scandal instructions from islam – on the surface christians may not disagree with them, but there may be situations where christians practices oppression or scandal – by biblical policy. At least, there have been in the past - the moral majority stance on homosexuality coming to mind here. Similarly, there may be other cultures that do this. What may sound ok on first blush, may not work with some official policies.)

There are also some christian principals that may not be immediately objectionable to islamic folks. (those guiding principals in the left-hand red section, in blue text).

- No using gods name in vain
- remember the Sabbath (Similar to the pray 5 times a day instruction – set aside time for prayer – as a general instruction.)
- No bearing false witness

But then there are the irreconcilable differences. God vs. Allah. Prophets. Gambling. Intoxication. Eating Pork. Consuming Blood. Praying 5 times a day (specifically).

Morally speaking, these two different religions have a lot in common. (…that is, if we take these ethical instructions as representative of what these social groups actually follow as ethical guides.).

What happens if an atheist tosses secular ethics into this comparative mix?

For this exercise I’m going to use Canadian Charter of Rights as a starting point for atheist or secular ethical instructions. (Mainly because I’m familiar with it, and because it is fairly simple to translate in point form – for the main ethical instructions…)

Now that we have 3 models in play, we can really begin to see the interplay between morality models and how there is some overlap. There is global overlap in the sweet-spot (or bull’s eye) of the ringed section. There is some subjective agreement in the second ring of the section, and in the outer rims, there is non-overlapping, or non-specified quasi-agreement.

What I mean by non-specified quasi-agreement are those items in green text. While they’re not specifically outlined in each of the three sets of ethical instructions (Christianity in the red region, islam in the blue region, and (one example of) secular law in the green region, we can see similarities, or negotiation between the concepts.

No traitors (islam) probably compliments some of the secular laws of nationality.
No false witnessing (christian) is a keystone of the secular judicial system in nearly every country that I’m familiar with. (And probably falls inside the No lying (global) instruction in the bull’s eye.)
No broken promises (islam) probably compliments a lot of contractual agreement laws (secular), and No false witnessing (christian) as well as falling under the umbrella of No lying (global).
No oppression (islam) synergizes nicely with the Protection of freedoms and liberties (secular) and probably isn’t all that objectionable to judeo-christians – even though its not specifically mentioned in the 10 C’s.

Now I could build this model out further – approaching the complexity of the original unlabeled model from Part 1, using Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, etc…
(an exercise I probably won’t do without an invitation and funding from a research group truly interested in such an endeavor) But even without those comparisons in place showing the variety of overlap in a global moral map, we can see that Christianity neither has the monopoly on moral instructions, nor do they exclusively hold title to those ethical instructions that are found inside of a global map of morality. We also can note that there are some ethical instructions not contained within our example of the 10 C’s that may be useful for formulating a moral ethic that works globaly. Now I’m not going to attribute this incompleteness to christianity or islam - because I recognize that these models are incomplete - if not bad for a basic representation.
It simply shows that there are different ethical messages that exist outside of each of these models - and suggests that there could be moral or ethical information that exists apart from, or outside of any social sub-group that bears examination and evaluation for inclusion in the moral map.

If we adhere only to a specific guide, or specific written doctrine and do not allow ourselves the freedom and intelligence to research and evaluate (and improve where possible) then we may end up in a stagnant mode of ethical thinking.

Note: These models are greatly simplified, and do not do justice to the complexities inherent in any of the ethical models used. I know any presuppositionalist can come here and pick my tinker-toy models apart as being incomplete or merely scratching the surface of the questions of morality. All these models are intended to do is demonstrate that any single social group attempting to lay claim exclusively to some of the ingredients of the moral stew may be (and probably are) doing so erroneously.

Thus a Presuppositionalist's contention that atheists cannot describe or account for morality without god (meaning the christian god for purposes of these posts) is based on an assumption that is demonstrably self serving and not necessarily true.

I originally posted this at

I wrote it. I copied it here. Its mine.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Home Theater, Games Room, now Wet Bar

Reporting a little progress on the game room:

Installed the Wet-bar sink today. Need to pick up a hole-saw for the faucet, so for now its just sitting there.