A study shows that atheists make better parents. However it seems we atheists are a dying breed!! But that is unlikely because atheism is a necessity for our survival.

The Cuddly One advices exorcisms to people suffering from “genuine spiritual disturbances”.

The Old Testament does what it does best by continuing to cause arguments for revisionists.

How might the growth of religious non-affiliation lead to intolerance and division when the majority still believe in a god? Don’t start blaming secularization for it or the rise of right wing fascists when it’s the fault of their good Lord Jesus.

That beautiful beast called outrage.

Having doubts about your Christian faith? Then why not take this free Bible study course?

If a budget is a moral document then the recent one shines little light on the lives of the less fortunate.

This weeks’ Woo: Some Universities really need to be cured from promoting pseudoscience.

Climate Change: Scott Pruitt blew it.

Advances in satellite imaging will change our perception of Earth.

Astronomers may soon be able to capture the first images of a Black Hole.

A look at the rules governing evolution from simple building blocks to complex systems.

What do we learn about ourselves when we consider the rights of personhood of non-humans?

A 400,000 year old skull found in Portugal may be an ancestor of the Neanderthals.

It is difficult to find bookish fools if they are lost between the pages but you can always speak easy in an Irish bar.

I did not know adults were still legally allowed to use violence against children in some American schools until the Satanic Temple highlighted it.

If the Universe is expanding then why aren’t we?

Ten things we did not know last week. Some photographs taken last week.

While you are waiting for the kettle to boil.…..

Coffee Break Video: Adventures of an asteroid hunter. The Fine Tuning argument debunked.

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Have a great week everyone!

Truth has always been found to promote the best interests of mankind. ---Every reflecting mind must allow that there is no proof of the existence of a Deity.

The Necessity of Atheism, by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Thanks Reg for some compelling links.  They will provide lots of interesting reading through the week!  This is not just Sunday School for me, it's all-week-long school. Have a great day!

Thanks, Reg!

I am going to get great mileage out of the “Bible study” story. I can already hear myself saying “Now I understand why the god of the Bible is so murderous! It is because Satan is the god of the Bible and here are the verses to prove it”. The video on the opulent lifestyles of the preachers is something else.

I think it is interesting to consider the idea of "personhood" by looking at a continuum of species from "more sophisticated" to "less sophisticated".  I am following the Western model of personhood in which people are separate individuals with rights, and Kant's idea that a person is someone who should be respected because they have value in themselves, and drawing on the universal capacity for empathy. 

What is the value that a person contains?  Like any living thing, they are a self-generating source of thriving or flourishing: a "star".  Why should we respect this?  Because the person themselves values their own thriving or flourishing, and this is probably the most fundamental thing about being a sophisticated sentient being, that we can all relate to through empathy, and hence, if we are a well-meaning person, cannot fail to gravely respect.  If we prevent a person's thriving (unfairly), the fact that they value this thriving is a cause for them to feel injured, over and above the pain they are experiencing; and we are disrespecting their rights.  Personhood in part is given by others and depends on our relations with others.  This is something that the Western and Eastern paradigms of personhood share. 

A sophisticated creature is more capable than a less sophisticated one of feeling existential suffering when their thriving is prevented by circumstances.  Less sophisticated creatures suffer in less sophisticated and distressing ways, until we get to those which do not really suffer at all when their thriving is prevented.  But I think we have to go a long way down the evolutionary tree of life before we get to this point. 

It's highly probable that an intelligent self-aware mammal is an evolutionary dead-end with a very short run.

I agree, Robert

I agree with most of that Simon. It is worth noting that Kant did not consider that we have any “direct duties” towards other species. If he were alive today his philosophy would not have him concerned with animal welfare in modern farming or medical research. He did not see animals as having any intrinsic worth – compared to the superior human. I suppose this was a common perception of the time and was held before Darwin’s Theory of Evolution – by natural selection.

I would agree with him that we derive our morals via rational thought. It is easy to think that we Humans are at the top of “Tree” but really we are just a twig on one branch of a very large sprawling bush. I would see that all creatures have an “intrinsic worth”. If I can consider that they do then I am assigning a status to them that values their existence. Anything that beats the odds and gets to be born into this world deserves to be treated with an ethical consideration. Does the fact that we can comprehend this make us duty bound to treat them with varying degrees of non-animal personhood?

"If he were alive today his philosophy would not have him concerned with animal welfare in modern farming or medical research.

- I suspect that because times have changed, he would have been influenced by modern ideas to consider extending "personhood" to non-human species.  It's just that, as I understand it, he thought that personhood depends on being a "moral agent" (someone capable of making moral decisions - correct me if I'm wrong) and this depends on having a rational mind, like you say. 

I think we derive our morals both from moral instincts or emotions, which we have evolved as a species, and through rational deliberation of abstract principles (both fast and slow thinking).  This means that animals can have a morality too, since they also have moral instincts or emotions. 

It seems that "personhood" is something that is given by others, so therefore, anything can be considered a person, like the business corporation, or the river, mentioned in the article.  We just have to have reasons for doing so. 

"Anything that beats the odds and gets to be born into this world deserves to be treated with an ethical consideration.

- if we agree with this, then it means we have a reason for ascribing personhood, or at least, rights, to any living creature. 

If I define a person as any being that is capable of valuing its own thriving - this is different to giving rights to any creature that is capable of suffering.  This means that "personhood" is a special category or subset of "having rights".  I suppose that this means "personhood" is an elite category that we just give to a few, very intelligent and sophisticated species which have something we can call a personality.  But then, personhood comes in degrees, just like the capacity for suffering. 

It seems that the Western definition of a person is any discrete entitity to which we grant rights.  There may be all kind of reasons why we grant rights to an entity.  Apparently, in Eastern societies, a person is a human being with a position in and relation to society, who has duties and obligations to that society. 

Thank you so much Reg, the light of my Sunday


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