Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Apologetic Atheist

In one of the discussions on a Facebook group, it was asked whether "atheist apologetic" is a valid term. In response, I gave this short sentence:

Atheists don't have anything to apologize for.

The questioner asked for more details by stating the following:
//if there is no belief involved, it is called agnostic. Atheisn [sic] is belief. Opposite of belief is doubt. If you are caliming [sic] to be "certain" of non-existence of God, you have a "belief". If you are not sure, then you are "agnostic"//

My response to these claims went as follows:

Atheism is the position one takes when one does not have a belief in a god. Now, you must not forget that "not having a belief" is not a belief. It does not mean that we "strongly believe" in the non-existence of god.

For example, think about this. Here's what a unicorn looks like [roughly] in most imaginations:
An artist's impression of the pink unicorn

Now, if unicornists are people who actively believe that this mythical creature actually exists in reality. Aunicornists on the other hand would be people who do not actively believe that this creature exists.

Note that aunicornists don't have to spend their time and energy maintaining a "belief" in the non-existence of unicorns, because if that was necessary, we will all be drained of our energy in maintaining beliefs about the non-existence of an infinite number of things! In contrast, all the aunicornists do is to not hold a belief about the existence of the unicorn.

Now the other thing is "agnostic". Contrary to popular belief, an agnostic is not a fence-sitter between an atheist and a theist. A person can be an agnostic atheist, or an agnostic theist.

Gnostic-Agnostic merely means whether one has knowledge or does not have knowledge about something. In the context of theism, that 'something' defaults to the existence of god. But one can also be said as agnostic about unicorns. It merely means he does not have any knowledge about the existence of unicorns.

An agnostic unicornist would be someone who does not have any knowledge about existence of unicorns, but continues to believe in their existence. An agnostic aunicornist would be someone who does not have any knowledge about existence of unicorns, and also does not believe in their existence.

Now, we cannot realistically have a gnostic aunicornist, because if we have verifiable knowledge about the existence of unicorns, it would actually be absurd to not believe in their existence.

The other thing is the apparent confusion between possibility and probability. Many times, theists claim that [at the very least,] it's possible that a god may exist, and many atheists would actually agree to that. I myself would say that it's possible that there actually is a god.

But possibility does not mean it's highly probable. In fact, possibility has no bearing on probability. Even with how much our total sum of human knowledge has expanded, the probability of god's existence is actually remaining very very very low. This is because of the total lack of evidence in support of god's existence, save some holy books and some anecdotal evidence. (Science does not accept anecdotal evidence as valid for good justifiable reasons.)

It is due to this extremely low probability that atheists reject the idea of god. But no atheist is ever certain that there is no god. We accept that there is a possibility that besides the deafening lack of evidence, there could be a god. But, the odds of that being true is so very low that we are able to live our practical lives as though there is no god.

By the way, please do not think that just because I'm giving a long-winded explanation here, it means I'm apologetic. I'm not any more apologetic about atheism than a physics teacher would be [(about the theory of relativity)] when explaining the theory of relativity to his students. Imagine him saying "I'm sorry about the theory I'm teaching you..." LOL!

Friday, September 9, 2011

What happens beyond death

There is no need to "live beyond death" to know what happens to one beyond death. You can merely observe it from the death of others, and infer from our current knowledge of human/animal anatomy.

The personality, memory and cognitive abilities of a human being (or animal), that is the various qualities attributed to a "soul" that supposedly survives physical death, have now been understood in medical science to merely be functions of the expansive neural network in one's brain. As such, when this brain stops functioning, these qualities immediately stop functioning as well.

Science has not yet found a way to read memories stored in the brain's neural network (dead or alive) or restart the personality stored in it, and it may never find one at all. But it has already been shown with enough evidence that without a functioning brain, there would not be any functioning personality, memory or any other cognitive ability.

The conclusion of this is that, a soul cannot exist as the qualities of a soul (personality, memory, both or anything else) all depend on a functioning *biological, physical* brain. Therefore, nothing survives beyond physical death except the dead body. And once a body is dead, it starts decaying.

The religious are looking for life beyond death and finding vain hopes and empty dreams about an afterlife they like in the religions they pick. Everything people believe about afterlife are just that - beliefs - fueled by wishful thinking.

Atheists on the other hand accept the reality that there is no afterlife and stop looking for one. Instead, they concentrate on using this life for the better while it still lasts. In the end, an atheist and a theist will both be dead. Nothing beyond it, except the decaying bodies of course.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Contact (1997)

I just watched the 1997 movie called Contact. It is a science fiction movie about alien contact, but there were no visible alien forms onscreen in the movie.

The movie plot in brief is as follows (spoiler alert): An astronomer working on the SETI project manages to pick up three different alien signals from the same source. The first was a sequence of prime numbers from 2 to 101. The second was an amplified re-transmission of Hitler's welcoming address at 1936 Summer Olympics. The third was a blue-print to build an alien device called The Machine, which will supposedly transport one human passenger to the aliens. The government builds two such devices, and as one was destroyed during testing, the other was used, piloted by the astronomer. The movie ends with government disbelieving her story of contacting the aliens, calling it a self-delusion. The pod carrying her had dropped right through The Machine in a matter of seconds, effectively disproving her claim for being gone from Earth for 18 hours. Possibly the only two anomalies in the evidence against her are the electrostatic storm created by The Machine and the recording of approximately 18 hours of static in her video recording device.

What's interesting about the movie is its strong references towards the debate between religion and science. Once the alien signals were received and the news made public, the reactions of the general public (in the movie) greatly varied from various forms of support to fanatic religion-motivated opposition. The astronomer, Dr. Eleanor Arroway, is herself an atheist and during the course of the movie becomes romantically close to a Christian philosopher named Palmer Joss. During their conversations, Eleanor questions how Joss can believe in God despite having no evidence or proof for His existence. Joss could only recount his own personal experience and compare his certainty that God exists to Eleanor's certainty that she loved her deceased father, despite there being no evidence for it.

Remnants of this exchange come back to her at the end of the movie, when she was questioned by the panel on how she can believe she has had contact with aliens despite having no evidence for it. In my opinion, she should have answered the same way 95% of the human race believes there's a God, because it is hypocritical that a majority of human beings can believe in something with no verifiable evidence and think it's perfectly normal to do so, but when one human being believes something different with no verifiable evidence, she could be labelled as self-deluded, an unwitting accomplice in an elaborate hoax, or even a lunatic.

The other interesting point to note was how a candidate was selected to man the pod to be dropped in The Machine. Although Dr. Eleanor was the perfect candidate for the job, she was declined the opportunity in favor of the less suitable David Drumlin, simply because of her lack of belief in God. It was argued that a person chosen to represent the whole of mankind should also represent what 95% of the human race believes in. This, to me would be ridiculous, as an alien civilization much more technologically advanced than our own would probably have had at least thought about the God question, if not already found the answers we're seeking. The last thing they would want is a self-deluded human being bringing the so-called "message of God" to them. The language the aliens spoke to humans in, is indeed, as Eleanor puts it, the language of science, and it is precisely the same language that humans ought to reply in. (It was later revealed that Palmer Joss skewed the panel to vote against her by bringing God up, in order to keep her safe from harm, although it remains unclear if he had knowledge of the planned suicide bombing attack.)

The destruction of the first alien device by a religious fanatic by the name of Joseph is also not to be overlooked. It brings us to realize the fact of how religion has, in its own ways of indoctrinating people, hampered scientific progress for hundreds of centuries. It reminds me of a graph which shows we could have been exploring the stars by now, had our scientific progress not been stifled by the Christian Dark Ages. For centuries, religion has always been questioning and opposing scientific research and progress, labeling it as anything bad from heresy to immorality. The latest among such is stem cell research which has the potential to save billions of human lives, but is opposed on the grounds of morality, that destroying a microscopic blastocyst of a few human cells is the same as killing a human life. What they do not realize is that, stopping or delaying stem cell research will cause millions of real live walking breathing human beings to die, who could have otherwise be saved via the research.

But no matter what religion tries to do to stifle science, just like in the movie, science has always prevailed and will continue to prevail, eventually overtaking religion.

Wikipedia | IMDB | YouTube (trailer)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Employee Abuse at Herbal Pharm Singapore

Herbal Pharm is a company whose administrative office is situated at 433 Race Course Road, Singapore 218679. Herbal Pharm has an office which is ripe with so much employee abuse that the turnover of the company is high (which means people join and quit jobs in the company very frequently). It has a non-conducive unhealthy work environment which not only allows abusive practices, but also encourages them.

My friend experienced it first-hand and in the last few months of her employment in Herbal Pharm, the abuse inflicted on her escalated so much that it made her depressive and suicidal. On many occasions after work, she'd come home crying over the abuse she suffered silently everyday at work. The abuse mostly came from the new HR Manager, and sometimes from the General Manager, both of whom are ladies. The HR Manager attempted to micro-manage her instead of treating her like an adult. If your manager treats you like an adult, he or she will assign tasks and deadlines for you, but after that he will mind his own business. He doesn't stay around you peering over your shoulder to check on you like a parent checks on a child doing homework. You as an adult must have the responsibility to complete the given tasks on time without having a watchful eye above you. And your manager must respect your adulthood and sense of responsibility. As you guessed, the HR Manager treated my friend like a child, checking up on her constantly.

The HR Manager also kept looking for any kind of apparent fault in my friend's work activities. She constantly kept scolding and nagging over the smallest of things, for the lamest of reasons simply because of her intense desire to abuse her new-found power over my friend. She had also set completely unreasonable restrictions on my friend about whom she should socialize with and whom she shouldn't, and these restrictions were intentionally created to be in direct contradiction to my friend's preferences of whom to socialize with. The General Manager had been showing bias against my friend by listening to all the lies of the HR Manager, believing them letter for letter, and exaggerating them further. Last week, she issued a "First Warning Letter" (see it here) with some truth but mostly full of lies perpetrated about my friend by the HR Manager and exaggerated by the GM. And last Saturday the General Manager called my friend on the phone and literally told her to "fuck off" if she doesn't like working there. You must be wondering in which company does a GM say "fuck off." Wonder no more, it's Herbal Pharm.

The top-level management in Herbal Pharm either does not take responsibility in curbing abusive practices, or are perpetrators of abuse themselves. They do not set any anti-abuse policies for their subordinates. Because of this lack, subordinates who are abused feel helpless and victimized. The Director of Herbal Pharm takes pride in the fact that he has seen many employees join and leave the company. It seems like he keeps the number of such employees in some sort of score card, the same way single guys keep scores of how many girls they slept with. The more employees join and quit (because they can't tolerate the abuse that starts from Day 1) the higher his scores go. Wow, must be some score! He is also a very rude person who does not know how to behave like a Director should. His rudeness with a concerned partner of my friend over the phone shows his vacuous pride and his complete lack of humility. He also does not care about the physical or mental health of his employees, despite the company's tagline "your health is our business" that's dripping with such heavy irony.

If you're working in Herbal Pharm and experiencing abuse from your senior managers, you're not the first one or the only one. There were many before you including my friend who left the company because of the same kind of abuse. My advice to you is to resign from your job as soon as possible with a resignation letter based on this example. If you're researching about Herbal Pharm for an upcoming interview, I'd reckon you to reconsider taking the job and subjecting yourself to the risk of employee abuse. Also by joining or working for this company, you are only encouraging the growth of a company with an unhealthy work environment and abusive employers, so it's of utmost importance that you do not allow such a company to prosper.

I also expect customers or potential customers of Herbal Pharm to arrive here. It's my humble request that if you value the psychological and emotional welfare of yourself and working people, you should please refrain from supporting this company and avoid purchasing its nutritional products. If you are a regular customer, next time a Herbal Pharm salesperson calls you, decline their offer by clearly stating that you don't wish to support a company which encourages employee abuse.

Some of you may say that every office has some sort of office politics, but to pass employee abuse as "office politics" is barely acceptable, if not a career suicide. It's the infringement of basic human rights and must be in the same category as parental abuse, marital abuse and every other kind of abuse. It must be dealt with and its perpetrators must be punished severely as the perpetrators of any other abuse will be punished. Sadly and unfortunately, I found absolutely no information regarding employee abuse in Singapore's Ministry of Manpower website, or in its sister website FairEmployment.sg. The closest I came to it is the information regarding employee discrimination, but it's a completely different issue altogether. It's obvious that Singapore's legal system does not automatically recognise employee abuse or worker abuse as a valid form of abuse (another reason why companies like Herbal Pharm can perpetrate abuse and get away with it) and so employees who are abused in their workplace feel helpless with no legal protection or legal avenue for easily suing the company for the abuse.

Even without legal protection against employee abuse, we can still push employers to learn the importance of treating employees with respect. For this we need to destroy companies that form the bad image about employment in Singapore. Let us work together in ensuring justice and fair treatment of employees by bringing down companies like Herbal Pharm where employees are not taken care of and are severely abused.

Further reading (much of the text in these links have been found to confirm that my friend and others in Herbal Pharm have been subjected to employee abuse):

Monday, January 10, 2011

Revamped

So I thought I should revamp my blog and added this new zesty orange look to it. Not like anyone is reading it beyond the can opener post, but anyhow...

I also added the new pages feature, and you can see the pages via the tabs on the top. They primarily serve to show you the different kinds of views I have. You're welcome to post your comments on them, of course :)