Light and Dark

Greta Christina recently wrote a wonderful review of the book Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me), an analysis of the unconscious defense mechanisms people use to rationalize their bad decisions. She's absolutely right that this is a book everyone ought to read (I need to find a copy myself), and her review makes some points that I think are important enough to justify shining a spotlight on.I'm no anthropologist or psychologist, but I like to think of myself as at least an amateur observer of … [Read more...]

On the Possibility of Perfect Humanity

Last month, in "An Impoverished Infinity", I wrote about the strange limitations that many Christian believers impose on God. These theists believe that God was not wise or powerful enough to create a world with intelligent beings that did not also include earthquakes, diseases and other disasters - as if the infinite space of possible worlds was somehow foreclosed.The discussion in the comments thread centered largely around the issue of free will, which is the most common example of these … [Read more...]

An Impoverished Infinity

In Christian theology, God is presented as the omnipotent creator, able to bring about literally any world it is possible to imagine. His power has no limits, he never suffers from weakness or fatigue, and he possesses the omniscient knowledge necessary to shape the world according to his overarching plan.Or so Christian apologists say, anyway. Yet when we atheists challenge them with the problem of evil, asking why a benevolent creator would bring about a world where disease and disaster … [Read more...]

Opting Out

Humans are communal creatures, and we have been ever since we roamed the African savannas. Our greatest evolutionary advantage is our intelligence, but even the world's greatest genius would probably find that to be little help if forced to survive in total isolation. Intelligence is inherently a social adaptation; it works best among groups that can share ideas, pass down knowledge, and brainstorm solutions to problems.Since we have always lived in clans and tribes, it's not surprising that … [Read more...]

The Asch Conformity Experiment

Solomon Asch. "Opinions and social pressure." Scientific American, vol.193, no.5 (1955), p.31-35.Back in April, I wrote about the classic Milgram experiment and what it shows about how disturbingly willing people are to submit to authority, even in the presence of strong countervailing reasons. What about when the pressure to obey comes not from an authority figure above us, but from our peers? How will people fare then?A classic study was done on this question in 1955 by Solomon Asch. … [Read more...]

The Milgram Obedience Experiment

Stanley Milgram. "Behavioral study of obedience." Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, vol. 67, no.4 (1963), p.371-378.In the 1960s, Stanley Milgram conducted one of the most important experiments ever done in the field of human psychology and social conformity. For ethical reasons, this study probably could not be repeated today, but that only makes it even more important to raise awareness of its findings.Milgram, a psychology professor at Yale University, recruited 40 male subjects … [Read more...]

Book Review: The God Part of the Brain

(Author's Note: The following review was solicited and is written in accordance with this site's policy for such reviews.)Summary: Contains many interesting ideas, but the informed reader will find much to take issue with.Atheist Matthew Alper's The God Part of the Brain seeks to explain the religiosity of humankind in terms of human evolution and the biology of conscious experience. Alper's hypothesis is that the increased intelligence that gave human beings an evolutionary advantage also … [Read more...]

Priming the Mind

In a previous post from Daylight Atheism titled "On Presuppositions" (all the way back in February 2006!), I wrote about how subconscious biases and prejudices, instilled in us by culture and surroundings, can exert a disturbingly measurable effect on our behavior. However, there is more to this story that deserves to be told. In the previous post, I wrote about persistent biases, those that are apparently supported and reinforced frequently enough over long enough periods of time to become … [Read more...]

No Messiahs

To judge by the narratives of our culture, an observer might well come to the conclusion that Homo sapiens was a race of fearless, free-spirited revolutionaries. History and mythology both religious and secular is filled with stories of the mavericks, the dissenters, the nonconformists who rebelled against an unjust and senseless system and "did it their way".However, this seeming admiration for dissent conceals the unsettling truth: Humanity is, and has always been, a race of followers. Ever … [Read more...]

Movie Review: The Da Vinci Code

I recently had an opportunity to see The Da Vinci Code, the movie based on Dan Brown's novel that alleges a sensational plot by the Catholic church to cover up the truth about the origins of Christianity.First things first: Yes, I did enjoy the movie, and I do recommend it. Without a doubt, its plot mixes historical fact, speculation and pure fantasy in a slipshod way, and anyone who believes events literally happened that way is taking it far too seriously and giving it credibility that it … [Read more...]


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