Monthly Archives: May 2009

Morality is no new thing

Religious people think that they ‘corner the market’ when it comes to morality. They believe in an absolute morality obtained directly from god. They believe that only humans have morals.

Religious people are wrong on all accounts.

I, and many others, have discussed the ‘absolute moral’ concept before and shown it is false and baseless. Morals, whether the religious like it or not, are not absolute and change (hopefully for the better) as societies change. The only moral that does appear to be relatively universal is the one commonly called “The Golden Rule” “an ethical code that states one has a right to just treatment, and a responsibility to ensure justice for others”, which despite what some religious people believe was not invented by the authors of the bible.

I, and many others, have also discussed the fact that religious people (in particular members of the Abrahamic faiths who assert this the strongest) did not invent, or discover, the foundation of morals. Morals came about because societies would never have flourished without them.

Today I’d like to direct the religious to the article in the UK Telegraph titled Animals can tell right from wrong, which discusses a new book which says that:

Scientists studying animal behaviour believe they have growing evidence that species ranging from mice to primates are governed by moral codes of conduct in the same way as humans.

There have been documentaries and articles before which discuss how some animals demonstrate that they help each other, or work together towards some common aim, but the book this article’s information comes from claims

that morals are “hard-wired” into the brains of all mammals and provide the “social glue” that allow often aggressive and competitive animals to live together in groups.

Whilst this book has its detractors, many of them still admit that some animals share many of the psychological qualities previously only attributed to humans. As  Professor Frans de Waal, a primate behaviourist at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, said:

“I don’t believe animals are moral in the sense we humans are – with well developed and reasoned sense of right and wrong – rather that human morality incorporates a set of psychological tendencies and capacities such as empathy, reciprocity, a desire for co-operation and harmony that are older than our species. (emphasis mine)

“Human morality was not formed from scratch, but grew out of our primate psychology. Primate psychology has ancient roots, and I agree that other animals show many of the same tendencies and have an intense sociality.”

The article then discusses various animals and shows examples of their ‘moral’ behavioural traits.


In 2003, a herd of 11 elephants rescued antelope who were being held inside an enclosure in KwaZula-Natal, South Africa.

… example of animals showing empathy for members of another species – a trait previously thought to be the exclusive preserve of mankind.

Diana Monkeys

A laboratory experiment trained Diana monkeys to insert a token into a slot to obtain food.

A male who had grown to be adept at the task was found to be helping the oldest female who had not been able to learn how to insert the token.

… there was no benefit for the male monkey …


Experiments with rats have shown that they will not take food if they know their actions will cause pain to another rat.

There are several other examples in the article of reciprocity, ethics, morals, a sense of justice and other traits commonly thought to only exist in humans. It just demonstrates to me that morals, ethics, etc. are some primal instinct that may be there in all animals to some extent. Morals (as I have pointed out before) are a societal necessity, not something handed down by some mythical being.

Whilst the book may have some questionable conclusions I think it would be a good read, and the principles behind it warrant further study. From the brief review in the Telegraph and at New Scientist it certainly appears that the authors have some very valid propositions.

What do you think, do animals have a moral code, are they capable of showing empathy; and what does this mean to the way we treat them?

Hat Tip to toomanytribbles for blogging the Telegraph article.

PS. I realise I may have generalised in my opening statements, but I have heard all those statements from so many religious people.


Filed under atheism, ethics, evolution, morals, religion

If atheism and religion were sex

If atheism and religion were sex ….

Atheism would be like masturbation – you know you’re there by yourself, but hell, you’re having a good time!

Religion would be like masturbating with a happy face drawn on your hand – it’s still only you, but you like pretending that you’re not alone.

from Crutch of the Weak


Filed under atheism, quote, religion

God can make you Thin.

Yes that is thin, not think.

I was asked on twitter the other day about religious diets, the person ( was actually talking about “stuffing their minds” (with bad thoughts), but I interpreted their initial tweet to be about “stuffing their bodies” (with bad food).

It piqued my interest to see if there were any “religious specific diets” lo-and-behold there are. Quite a few in fact, and AOL Health has even done a review of some of the more well known ones. The AOL Religious Diets review can be read in full on their site, but here are a few excerpts, including the opening paragraphs:

“God, help me, I’m fat.”
Does prayer really help you lose weight?

I’d have to say no, unless you prayed so much you didn’t get time to eat?

Faith-based diets are increasingly popular with Christians making up the largest base for the new trend. Many pastors and church leaders are recognizing obesity in their congregation and preaching about weight loss as it relates to the Bible.

I admit I haven’t read every word in the Bible, but I don’t recall ever reading, or hearing of, any weight loss programs in it?

All these different diet methods share the common message, “Don’t run to the fridge, run to God.”

Well I can see some benefit in that diet tip, running away from the fridge means running away from food, and if you “run to God” you are going to be running for along time. Seeing as, if God exists no one actually knows where “he” resides (so you’ll be running in circles all over the place).  😉

Here is the list of the diets reviewed by AOL Health:

Faith-Based Diets
Divine Health & What Would Jesus Eat?
Maker’s Diet
Hallelujah Diet
Body By God
First Place
Weigh Down and Thin Within

Divine Health is based on a Mediterranean cuisine and encourages eating fish, salads and lightly cooked vegetables. The diet also encourages daily walking.

Maker’s Diet is “drawn from the book of Leviticus, the food plan is based on Old Testament dietary laws.” Like the previous diet, this diet also encourages people to eat less processed foods, sugars and pork.

Hallelujah Diet is “based on Genesis 1:29, the vegetarian diet primarily consists of eating 85 percent raw to 15 percent cooked fruit and vegetables.” In fact this diet is very nearly a vegan diet as it “restricts eating all meats, dairy or refined flour products, white rice or eggs.”

Body By God is a diet based on “foods given by God” namely natural fruits, vegetables, nuts, organic beef and poultry, fish and herbs. This diet also encourage exercise and encourages people to eat less processed foods, fried foods, sugars and pork.

First Place diet “instead of strict food guidelines or supplements, the focus of the group is spiritual awareness to replace food as comfort.” “The plan doesn’t leave out any food group but encourages members not to indulge on too many sweets or excess amounts of fried foods.”

Weigh Down and Thin Within diets have a similar focus to the First Place diet in putting emphasis on Bible study and prayer to rejuvenate spirituality and to replace food as comfort. There are no strict guidelines on what you can and can’t eat in these diets.

So are any of these diets any good, will any of them help you lose weight?

From the review in the AOL article and my own limited health knowledge I’d say yes, some of them will help you lose weight. Any diet that encourages you to eat less processed, fatty, sugary foods and more fruit and vegetables is going to be good for you. Any diet that encourages you to do more exercise is also good for you. Whether these diets are any better because they are God or Bible based is a very debatable point.

Personally I wouldn’t recommend a vegan/vegetarian diet to anyone, some people can lead healthy lives on them but you really have to know what you are doing to ensure you don’t miss out on any vital vitamins and minerals, or become undernourished.

One of the points the AOL article does raise that is mentioned in some of these weight loss programs is the problem of “comfort food”. Some people eat when stressed or depressed and this can often lead to weight gain, or make it difficult to lose weight. Reducing the emotional reasons for eating may be a necessary part of a weight loss program for some people. A few of the religious diets listed above promise to assist with this aspect of dieting, but I’m not sure prayer or scripture reading is necessarily the best method. I have the worry that “spiritual awareness” may only temporarily mask a deeper emotional problem, perhaps  it would be better for these people to seek help from a highly trained competent psychologist?

The bottom line when it come to losing weight, and/or fat, is to reduce your intake and increase you out-take.  Eat less and better, exercise more.
However, one should always eat sufficiently to ensure you don’t miss out on vital vitamins and minerals and maintain good health.


Filed under atheism, bible, diet, food, god, religion

Stephen Conroy in Egypt?

It would almost seem to be that our “Minister for all thing internet censorship related” the *cough* honourable *cough* Stephen Conroy has been assisting the Egyptians.

A court in Cairo has issued a ruling that bans pornographic websites in Egypt, state news agency Mena reports.

The Administrative Court in Cairo has ordered the government to block the “venomous and vile” sites in response to a case filed by a Muslim lawyer. from BBC News

I wonder if that lawyer knows Stephen?

From my reading of the article it looks like a very odd case. One person has managed to convince the courts that porn should be banned on the Egyptian Internet. But, the government (which would actually have to uphold that law and force the ISPs to comply) has had nothing to do with the case. Though as the article points out, the government is now in a difficult position:

The decision can be appealed in a higher court, but would put the government in the awkward position of being seen to defend pornography…

It always worries me that one person, or a small group of people, can have such an influence on the rest of society. And it always seems to be the religious that are that person or small group.

Religious people why can’t you just stay in your churches, I’m happy to stay out of them.

1 Comment

Filed under atheism, internet censorship, religion

I love Sciencey Stuff

Yesterday had some very interesting science related articles in the news, here’s a couple of excerpts:

Life’s First Spark Re-Created in the Laboratory

It’s Alive! Since the late seventies scientists have theorised how life may have started, recent experiments have validated some of those theories.

A fundamental but elusive step in the early evolution of life on Earth has been replicated in a laboratory.

Researchers synthesized the basic ingredients of RNA, a molecule from which the simplest self-replicating structures are made. from Wired Science

I admit, I don’t understand half of this stuff (I’m not a molecular biologist or even done any university level science subjects) but I think I understand enough of the fundamentals to understand how and why this all works. I also understand enough to see that no “divine intervention” is required.

I have just started reading “The Selfish Gene” which explains some of the same concepts as in the linked article. Interesting to note, the concepts raised in that book reflect what have now been achieved in the laboratory.

When Sex and Science Collide

Ancient phallus unearthed in cave

Recent archaeological digs have unearthed the final piece of an ancient artifact. That artifact is a “20cm-long, 3cm-wide stone object, which is dated to be about 28,000 years old, buried in the famous Hohle Fels Cave near Ulm in the Swabian Jura.” from BBC News

A “must have” object in every Ice Age ladies collection?

The object is believed to be an Ice Age Sex Aid.

The “object” also appears to have been used to “knap, or split, flints” (sharpen or shape stone knives).

So Ladies, next time your man says he’s “hard as a rock” ask him if you can borrow it to sharpen a few knives. 🙂

There was also an excellent article in the New York Times about some of the female artefacts archaeologists have found dating back 40,000 years. However I can no longer access that article as the NYT wants me to register and log-in. Suffice to say the article discussed the many anatomically correct statues of women and women’s “private parts” that have been found in Ulm and other places. PZ has a story today about the female figurines, with the picture of them.

Quite sex obsessed our ancestors weren’t they? Though some might say  nothing much has changed in the last 40,000 years, has it?


Filed under atheism, evolution, penis, science

I’m Not Quite Human

According to Cardinal Cormack Murphy-O’Connor, who recently asserted that secularists and atheists are not totally human if they leave out the “transcendent”.

The Cardinal believes everyone has an innate search for god, thus if you don’t have one then you not a fully developed human being.

I’d counter that and say you are not a fully evolved human until your mind has awakened to the realisation that the likely-hood of there being any gods is so improbable as to be effectively nil.

When the majority of humanity finally comes to the eventual realisation that there probably are no gods then the human race may finally get on with what we are really here for.


Filed under atheism, god, godless, religion

Take Note Ladies…

spend too much and you deserve a slappin’  from

A SAUDI judge has told a seminar on domestic violence that it is okay for a man to slap his wife for lavish spending …

In a conservative religious climate where women are seen as the lowest class it’s hardly surprising that a Judge says it’s OK to slap your wife for spending too much.  Idiot!

Muslim countries have along way to go before they enter the 21st century.


Filed under Muslim

Richard Dawkins Down Under!

From the Atheist Foundation of Australia (AFA) comes the exciting news that Richard Dawkins may be appearing at the AFA Convention next year. From the AFA Forum:

Wonderful news everyone! A very exciting occasion is heading our way next year. Atheist Alliance International, of which the Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc is a member, is proposing we combine with them in having a convention in Melbourne in March 2010. With guest speakers the calibre of Richard Dawkins, Phillip Adams, Catherine Deveny, and yet to be finalised notable international and national presenters, it will be a once-in-a-lifetime event not to be missed. The convention will run from Friday night 12 March until Sunday midday with the cost of registration and meals about $250 per person and less for concessions. The theme is “The Rise of Atheism.”

We are still in the early planning stages but it would be of great assistance if those who have an interest in attending the convention contact head office by phone, letter or email and let us know. An estimate of numbers is critical to the success of this venture. Just write the word “Convention” in the subject line when replying by email.

See you there!

David Nicholls (President AFA)

I know  a lot of you out there, like me, would love to see Richard Dawkins and other atheist luminaries present speeches and discussion sessions, so why not go along. Contact details are available on the AFA website, let them know if you are interested in attending.

Apart from meeting various atheist luminaries it may also be interesting to meet some of the many atheist bloggers, forum readers and twitters face to face. Closer to the time I may put a call out for a few get-togethers with long time blogging friends, if you are interested in having a few drinks and a chat, let me know.

One more thing, if you are not already a member of the AFA, why not join up? If you can’t afford to join or don’t want to publicly put your name to a group such as the AFA, then at least why not invent a nickname, create a Gmail account with that name and join the AFA Forum? You can get involved as little or as much as you want.

While you are at it, if you are not already on twitter consider signing up and following a few of the interesting atheists on there.

You can follow me on twitter at OzAtheist.

I’ll be posting blogs and tweets as I find out more information about the impending Atheist Convention in 2010, hope to see you all there.

One last thing, in-case any of you are wondering why I have, quite a few times, tried to encourage people to join groups like the AFA or Australian Skeptics it’s for one reason: NUMBERS.

One of the reasons that the religious get so much attention is because they have “the numbers”, there appears to be lots of them. However, there may  also be a lot of atheists in Australia, (possibly 30% of the population, roughly 7 million people) but not many of them are in any atheist/skeptic/freethinker/humanist societies, clubs or whatever. Perhaps the only way we atheists will ever get treated seriously by government and the media etc, is if we can prove we have “the numbers”. So consider joining a group that suits you ideals. Become a number.

PS. I had a freakin great time at Groovin the Moo yesterday, just thought I’d let you know. 🙂


Filed under atheism