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Can a molecule make us moral?

(CNN) -- The longest debate since humans have been having debates is whether we are good or evil. It underlies the stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Jesus and Judas.

What is our human nature? Of course, the answer is we can be both good and evil. But what determines which part of our character emerges?

About a decade ago, my lab made an unexpected breakthrough in the understanding of good and evil. We discovered that the neurochemical oxytocin makes people trustworthy. We then found oxytocin was responsible for many other moral behaviors, from being generous to sacrificing to help a stranger.

Wait -- morality is chemical? In my TED talk, I describe how I made the unlikely discovery of the moral molecule, how I was roundly discouraged from even looking for such a chemical, and what drove me to persist in my search.


First "neurolaw", now "neuroeconomics"... where will neuroscience take us next?

Texas Man Pulls Gun, Chases Wrong Guy, Says Sorry

A man who pulled a gun on another driver, then chased him more than 10 miles into the parking lot of a police substation — all because he thought the driver had tried to rob him during a drug deal — apologized when he realized it was a case of mistaken identity, officials said.

“Oh, man, that's not the right guy,” the armed man told officers after his arrest.

The bizarre tale began on the West Side on South General McMullen Drive and ended when the driver of the car being chased sped into the parking lot of the Police Department's East Substation on Houston Street after 7 p.m., just as Officer Louis Esquivel was leaving after his shift.

“He drove up real fast and was honking his horn,” Esquivel said. “The woman (a passenger) rolled down her window and yelled, ‘He's got a gun, he's trying to shoot us.'”
The man showed his hands and got on the ground. Officers handcuffed him. He had a stolen weapon and a wad of cash, police said.
Police said the man told them he was buying black tar heroin and that the other man tried to rob him during the deal. But when he got a closer look he realized his mistake, police said.


What a fucking dumb-ass.

Note to self: If ever doing an illicit drug deal and someone tries to rob me, DON'T TRY TO MAKE A CITIZEN'S ARREST. (Let alone if you are using a stolen gun...)

Unfortunately, I don't know of any gun control law that could stop people like this. Even in a total ban environment, assholes will still steal and arm themselves. All we can do is enforce laws on the books after the fact... take the idiots out of circulation for awhile and confiscate their illegal guns.

Nuclear Power Remains Key To America's Energy Future

Until the nuclear accident in Japan earlier this year, the press and blogosphere were replete with articles and discussions about an imminent "nuclear renaissance" in the U.S. President Barack Obama stated publicly that nuclear power was a major component of his "green energy" agenda, and he also called for an increase in the federal nuclear loan guarantee program to help jump-start new plant construction.
Contrary to the conventional wisdom, and despite Fukushima, a solid majority of Americans still view nuclear energy favorably. According to a survey conducted in late September by Bisconti Research and GfK Roper, 62% of respondents say they approve the use of nuclear energy as one of the ways to provide electricity in the United States.

Those strongly favoring nuclear energy outnumber those strongly opposed by a 2-1 ratio. Eighty-five percent of respondents believe that current operating licenses should be renewed when they expire, as long as the plants meet federal safety standards.

Fifty-nine percent agree: "We should definitely build more nuclear power plants in the future" while 67% of Americans say they would find a new reactor acceptable at the site of the nearest operating facility.


I don't necessarily agree with this article's conclusion (I think conservation and renewables CAN meet a big chunk of our near-future energy needs) but I do think its true that most Americans are open to more nuclear power as a means of weaning us off of dirty fossil fuels, like coal and natural gas, faster.

The sooner more coal and natural gas plants are taken off-line, the better, no matter how we do it.

And President Obama agrees.

'Don't touch my manger,' says Texas town

The controversy, oddly, began more than a thousand miles north of Athens in Madison, Wisconsin, where the secular Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) is based. The FFRF had caught wind of complaints about the nativity scene from members of Athens’ community, and took it upon themselves to draft a letter requesting that local authorities have it removed from the front lawn of the county courthouse. They argued that placing religious symbols outside a government building excluded people of different backgrounds or faiths.
We first received a phone call from an Athens resident, someone who isn’t a member of our organisation, who was looking for help. We saw a photo of the nativity and realised that it was standing alone on government property. It is against the law for the government to mount a display that focuses solely on religion. When we asked, the local authorities said it had been put up by a group, which signified to us that the land was being used as a public forum. We’re not saying destroy all nativity scenes, we’re just saying it doesn’t belong on government property, and if it does, that space needs to be opened up to different viewpoints.

We gave a banner to one of our complainants in Athens, but a banner doesn’t really cut it for balancing the visual of a nativity scene. So we’ve asked Henderson County to permit us to display what we call a ‘natural nativity’ on the grounds next year. Instead of a baby Jesus, there’s a black baby girl for equality. In the place of the wise men, there are truly wise historical figures such as Darwin, Einstein, Emma Goldman and Mark Twain.


What's funny is that Christian dominionists like Congressman Ted Poe (REPUKE) are crying "persecution":


He's a flat out liar, they won't allow other displays to be put up, hence the lawsuit. (But then again, he's a Republican, so that's par for the course...)

Anita Perry (Rick Perry's wife) Thinks Washington D.C. Could Use Some Christian Values

Let's pass on "some of that", shall we not? We kind of like our church and state separate, thank you very much.

(Is it any coincidence the more desperate and outspokenly "Christian" the candidate is, the more they fall in the polls? Bachmann, Perry, Santorum... the more they get on their high horse and preach, the lower they fall into the single digits. Even their own Republican base has had enough of their religious pandering. That should speak mounds...)

"Unrepentant Christopher Hitchens is now roasting in hell!"

That's how I found out about his passing this morning on Facebook, from one of my extended family members who I wasn't aware was even very religious.

I simply replied: "Stay classy." and promptly un-friended him.

The only good thing about events such as these is that it really brings them out of the woodwork so you can identify them and take the appropriate action.

I now know whose funeral I won't be attending if he passes before me. He may like to grave-dance, but I have no interest.

R.I.P. Chris.

Is it Rude to Suggest that Religious Folks May Be Ignorant?

DISCLAIMER: I'm not saying that religious folks ARE necessarily ignorant, just wondering if its rude to even suggest as much?

As some of you may know, Richard Dawkins' new book just came out: The Magic of Reality -- How We Know What's Really True.

I ordered the Audio CD version a couple months ago and listened to it fully twice on a recent road-trip. It's "only" about 6 hours long, but is packed full of all sorts of interesting little facts and tidbits about nature. Time and time again, Dawkins and his lovely female companion narrate various stories about ancient religious myths trying to explain everything from why the sun rises and sets, why rainbows form, what causes earthquakes and tsunamis, and other basic scientific knowledge that all people should at least have a passing knowledge of.

The overwhelming theme is that time and time again throughout history, humans have invented fascinating religious ideas to try to explain what can now be much better explained by science. Taking God out of the equation doesn't in any way diminish the "magic" of reality -- indeed, knowing the true causes of how the world really works the way it does is amazing in and of itself.

But it definitely begs the unanswered question: are there perhaps still many things that science has yet to explain fully, that invented religious ideas still try to bridge that gap of ignorance? Consider how many people still believe in "miracles" and "answered prayers" -- that God supposedly intervenes on their behalf (at least some of the time) while apparently ignoring all the prayers of those who are suffering and end up dying prematurely?

Is Richard Dawkins being rude for pointing these things out?

Black, atheist and living in the South

[quote](CNN) - Benjamin Burchall first realized how different his experience in the South was going to be while looking for something to watch on television on a Sunday night.

"I couldn't find anything on television but religious programming,” says Burchall, 38, a former Christian minister and agricultural consultant who moved from Long Beach, California, to Atlanta for work in 2010, “And I thought, 'Oh my God, where am I? Is this all that is on television here?'"

And he quickly found other differences from West Coast living.

"I was not used to meeting someone for the first time and having their first question be ‘what church do you go to?’"

Burchall’s proud response to such queries was, “None.” He is part of an increasingly visible minority – black atheists living in the Bible Belt.


Pretty interesting article.

Whenever I think I have it hard as a white male atheist out here in the West, I can only imagine what black women non-believers have to go through in the Bible Belt...
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