Tuesday, September 7, 2010

It's a good time to be an atheist!

It's a good time to be an atheist - a really good time to be an atheist!

Science and Philosophy

God not needed to explain the origins of the universe - This provides scientific rationale against the cosmological and fine tuning arguments.

Synthetic Life - Craig Venter has shown that synthetic life is possible. This research, amongst others, will lead to a further understanding of abiogenesis.

Extrasolar Planets - Hundreds of extrasolar Earth-like planets have been discovered showing that the Earth-like planets are not rare in the universe and increases the probability of earth-like life elsewhere in the universe.

Scientific Morality - Although I don't necessarily buy this, Sam Harris thinks science can answer questions on morality.

Free will is an illusion - Some theistic traditions require free will to have moral culpability.

Majority of scientists/historians/psychologists/sociologists are atheistic - The more knowledgeable you are the less likely it is you believe in god.

Majority of philosophers are atheistic - Even the study of philosophy does not lead one to god, even though philosophy is the last great stand for the religious.

"God's Will" is our will - fMRI scans show that when people are asked what God wants, its equivalent to what they want.

Politics and Society

Australia has an openly atheistic Prime Minster - Not many people cared about this fact.

The fastest growing "religion" is none - People are no longer keeping their religious traditions.

Societies which are organically atheist are healthier - Contrary to the belief that without religion society would collapse.

2 Million books sold on one atheistic book - The God Delusion has sold over 2 million copies!

Christian Atheists and Atheist Clergy - Even some of the religious no longer really believe.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Love Shyness - A Bleak Future

This is part of a series on Love Shyness. The index can be found here.

Despite being heavily criticised, Maslow's hierarchy of needs serves a rough guide to the needs of the individual in an individualistic society. Love shy males by their very nature suffer physiologically through lack of sex, love and belonging due to the absence of sexual intimacy and also fail to reach self-actualisation due to their issues related to spontaneity, etc. If Maslow's hierarchy was to be believed, love shy males would therefore be at higher risk of personal failure than their non-shy counterparts. Let's see what Gilmartin discovered about the love-shy population and their success in life.

Unemployment

In a study of white, college educated males in 1982, Gilmartin discovered that 3.6% of the non-shy population was unemployed while 16% of the older love-shy males were unemployed at the time of the interview. Basically love-shy males are extremely prone to unemployment, prolonged under-employment and/or part-time employment.

Annual Income

The average income for the older love-shy males in 1979-1981 was only $14,782 despite 93% of these love-shy males having an undergraduate degree and 42% having at least one graduate degree. Despite not giving comparative figures for the non-shy population, Gilmartin states that this number is low and represents an unrewarded and ignored segment of the American population.

Housing

Of the 100 older love-shy males interviewed, all were living in small one-bedroom apartments. Gilmartin judges that 73% were living in less than desirable neighbourhoods and their living quarters were often cramped and cluttered.

Socioeconomic Mobility

Gilmartin noticed that based on the reports of the older love-shy males, their socioeconomic status had been reduced in relation to their upbringing. For example, a love-shy male who grew up in a middle class household (which is interestingly true of the majority of love-shy males) is more likely to drift into the lower class in adulthood. This seems counter-intuitive considering love-shy males are more likely to obtain higher education - a term which sociologists call "status inconsistent". These "status inconsistent" people are seldomly happy, content or productive.

Catch-22

If love-shyness leads to low income and career instability then this also has further implications in the ability for the love-shy to overcome their limitations. First of all, in terms of confidence, their financial condition does not allow them to feel in control of their lives. Secondly and perhaps more importantly, society looks down on those earning less, which affects their ability to attract women. For example, OkCupid has tracked the number of messages a man gets in relation to his age and his income and not surprisingly the lower the income, the less messages a man gets, particularly above the age of 23. Women are still attracted to men who bring home the bacon.

Basically, they are stuck in a downwards spiral. Their love-shyness leads to low income, which makes them unable to find a mate, which does not help their confidence, etc, leading to more career instability, and so on.

In a 1977 survey of happiness and income, 46% of people earning >$20,000 were "very happy", compared to 33% for $10,000 to $19,999, and 29% for those earning less than $10,000.

At Work

Those love-shy males who do obtain work often struggle with issues of confidence and social networking - critical areas for many jobs. This can lead to a stagnation in the advance of ones career and general distrust from their colleagues.

In a questionnaire developed to measure the attitudes of the love shy and their non love shy counterparts, the following results were obtained.

Competitiveness:
100% Non-Shy
32% Older Love-Shy

Easily discouraged:
0% Non-Shy
100% Older Love-Shy

Seldomly let ones-self down:
72% Non-Shy
4% Older Love-Shy

Enjoy making decisions:
88% Non-Shy
38% Older Love-Shy

Solutions

Gilmartin offers the following advice.
THE CHOICE OF A MAJOR IS OF INFINITELY GREATER IMPORTANCE THAN GRADEPOINT AVERAGE. To put it bluntly, A STRAIGHT "C" AVERAGE IN THE RIGHT DISCIPLINE WILL BE OF VASTLY GREATER VALUE TO THE LOVE-SHY THAN A STRAIGHT "A" AVERAGE IN THE WRONG DISCIPLINE.
[Yes, it appears as all-caps in the book]
Completion of a major in a technical field with only a "C" average will very likely get a love-shy man a much better career opportunity than will an "A" average in a non-technical discipline that is not clearly related to the job market.
...
Intellectual self-enlightenment or "insight" is now recognized by most psychologists as being quite useless from the standpoint of curing love-shyness.
...
It can be asserted with considerably certainty that love-shy men who major in technical fields and who develop salable, technical skills, adjust to their adult lives a great deal better than do love-shys who major in the liberal arts, social science, education and humanities disciplines.
This is something I have personally thought about over the past six months or more since I started reading this book. Doing a degree in physics is all well and good from an intellectual point of view, but it doesn't build a foreseeable stable and profitable future, things which most people require to feel confident within themselves. Another problem is the lack of females who are in the field, which decreases the probability of meeting someone who shares similar interests.

Despite my love of physics, I'm not sure I can exactly feel content with the picture of myself being 40 and living alone in a small flat in Germany...I've yet to come up with a reasonable picture as to where my future will take me. There are a million other ancillary issues which complicate things too. They all lead to me having a lack of motivation in finishing my PhD.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What Dawkins Got Wrong

Last week I finally presented my talk on "What Dawkins Got Wrong" to the UWA Atheist and Agnostic Society, which was previously postponed due to my broken ankle. The talk was derived mainly from Wielenberg's paper titled "Dawkins's Gambit, Hume's Aroma, and God's Simplicity".

Previously I agreed with Dawkin's central argument in his book "The God Delusion" as I shared a similar, heavily scientific world-view. As time has gone and I've read a lot more in philosophy, I now no longer believe that Dawkin's presented the best possible case for atheism, which, in my opinion, is a shame. After I read the paper by Wielenberg, I agreed with the critics of Dawkins who argue that Dawkins attacks an almost straw-man like God.

My intention in giving the talk was to open people up to a different way of thinking and I can't say I succeeded in this task. I learned that not everyone shares an appreciation of philosophy and it was difficult to remember back to the time when I agreed with the masses. I wasn't able to elucidate the reasons why I changed my mind - at least not convincingly in my opinion.

Many of the counter-objections I faced were similar in nature to a discussion at Common Sense Atheism, which also provided another source for my case against Dawkins.

It's perhaps too harsh to suggest that Dawkins got things wrong (sensational headlines usually attract audiences), but he didn't present the best arguments as to why one should be an atheist, which of course gives his critics and detractors plenty of room to manoeuvre. It's also a particularly pernicious aspect of Dawkins argumentative style that he tends to over state his case. (Yes, my irony detector is buzzing like crazy)