truth and action

Early 90s rap theology

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Loving the developments over at Katay’s blog.

I must, however, ask: Who’s down with OPP?

Written by joelrizillio

June 2, 2010 at 2:42 am

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The “God spot”, and 3 questions to ask a Christian about God

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Earlier tonight a friend of mine asked me what I thought of the “God spot” in the brain (that is, a suggested neurophysiological basis for mystical/religious experience)

It seems obvious that this is no anti-God argument for the atheist, and it doesn’t even devalue religious experience. Even the articles I linked above say “It is not the final reduction of God to mere neurophysiology”, however I feel it is worthwhile to spell this argument out.

So here we go

  1. The brain is the ultimate sensor we possess, for physical and emotional sensation, in fact, there is no experience we have which is not mediated by the brain.
  2. The taste of a fine steak, the anticipation of seeing a loved one from whom you have been separated, the thrill of winning a sporting competition – all these will excite different parts of the brain.
  3. Understanding the part of the brain responsible for the enjoyment of food, or relationship, or achievement does not lead us to question the meaning of a meal, a reunion, or a victory.
  4. Mystical experience exists. People have experiences of transcendence.
  5. When we ask “Is a mystical experience real?”, we really mean “Does that experience mean anything”.
  6. We may well say “It’s just an excitation, a “lighting up” of the ‘God spot’ ” ; however; in the same way a fortunate person present for the Gettysburg address may have said “It’s just an excitation of my auditory and visual centres in my brain”
  7. The point is, the explanation of how an experience came to be tells you its genesis (be careful of the genetic fallacy!) not its meaning
  8. In the same way, an explanation of how a Christian feels about God tells us nothing about that feeling’s meaning.
  9. For example, if a Christian says “I love God”, the fact we know what part of the brain is responsible tells us no more about God than we already know, that is, that this Christian says he or she loves Him.
  10. In particular, it tells us nothing about the object of this love.

Assuming you are an honest inquirer, the way to find out about the object of the Christian’s love is to ask questions. Suppose  you were about to say to our God-loving Christian: “Your religious experience is merely the excitation of the “God spot” in your temporal lobe”, but then you remembered this post and thought better of it. Here are some questions which I think have the same thrust but may yield more enlightening answers:

  1. How can you love someone you can’t see?
  2. What do you mean when you say you love God? Is it the same way you love your parents, or spouse, or friends?
  3. But how do you know God loves you back? Anything you feel or that happens to you might be accounted for by natural explanations!

As a Christian, I’d be delighted to be asked these questions.

Written by joelrizillio

May 13, 2010 at 12:22 pm

Posted in christianity

My infallible 4 step study plan to learn anything in 15 minutes

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So I think I’ve discovered an extremely powerful study method.

You will need

  • “Source material” – that is, a brief (digestible) summary written by someone else – a summary-style textbook, or a wikipedia article, or anything!
  • An A4 notebook and a pen
  • An alarmed timing device
  • A flash card (small)

Now on to the steps

  1. Set your timer for 10 minutes. In that 10 minutes write down (and organise in a logical fashion) all the important information from your source material.
  2. When you reach the 10 minute mark, STOP. Do not cheat
  3. Read over the notes you have made, and formulate 5 intelligent questions (eg. “Compare and contrast NSTEMI and STEMI” rather than “Name 3 risk factors for myocardial infarction”). Write them on the index card. Label the other side with the topic
  4. Put your notes away. Now your task is to speak about your topic (the front of the index card) using your intelligent questions as prompts. Ideally do this to an audience of your peers.

And that is it! I’ve just started using this method and am finding it really gives excellent results!

Written by joelrizillio

May 12, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Blog re-initiate?

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I love thinking and sharing my thoughts. I’ll try to put any up here if I have some

Written by joelrizillio

May 12, 2010 at 12:42 pm

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iBlog 2.0

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If I were launching a new version of an iconic australian spread, I would recognise the impossibility of a “this is a good product” style of campaign, and instead give it a comically bad name, generating interest (and sales) with very little advertising outlay

Written by joelrizillio

September 30, 2009 at 1:28 pm

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morality and mocking

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I  was driving down the beautiful Mt Ousley road the other night when I switched my radio to Triple J’s Hack program. The topic for the night was explicit text messaging and MMSing, and the legal ramifications for the youth engaging in it.

One of the discussants (I surmised him to be a teenager from one of the catholic youth organisations) said something to the effect of

“What our youth need is not more laws, but greater discernment and moral fibre”

At which point one of the other experts (who sounded much older) began openly mocking, interrupting the young speaker. “Moral FIBRE,” he  scoffed.

The presenter handled the situation well, but when given the chance to speak, the older speaker said

“I do not believe in any such thing as a lack of moral fibre. As a humanist I believe it is inherent”

This gobsmacked me.

It seems self evident to me that, even if humans do possess the ability to make moral decisions, we choose not to exercise it most of the time – which says very little of our inherent “moral fibre”.

Humanist interventions for social problems tend to revolve around harm-minimisation, education, and legal liberalisation. I do not deny there is a place for these things. However, the perspective from which they proceed is an incomplete one.

The dogmatic denial of the inherent corruptness of human nature can only lead to well-intentioned adjustment of social facade. If indeed the very human-ness of humanity is corrupt, this presents a much deeper problem to address when we see social brokenness.

Written by joelrizillio

July 19, 2009 at 11:53 am

Posted in christianity

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supererogation and Jesus

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I’ve just started reading Principles of Biomedical Ethics, by Beauchamp and Childress,  and have been introduced to the ethical concept of supererogation. A rough definition might be “exceeding one’s obligations”. [Be warned: it’s not a word to use in conversation.]

I’ve been reflecting on the place of supererogation in christian thinking. As our example is God Himself, and as we are called to “Be holy, as I am holy”, it seems that supererogation is irrelevant for the christian.

But then we think about Jesus’ words (Matt 5:47):

And if you greet only your brothers and sisters,* what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

He’s clearly applying a supererogation-like idea here, but there is a difference.  Jesus invites his disciples to supererogate the common morality, using the comparison with the unspiritual to show the insufficiency of meeting an imagined minimum.

We are called to “Be holy, as I am holy”. This clearly precludes supererogation of the true moral standard, but mandates the supererogation of every other.

Written by joelrizillio

July 8, 2009 at 9:15 am

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