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Discussion (24)¬

  1. hotrats says:

    If you want to know the right thing to do in the 21st century, the best place to look is a book that was written to address the question, ‘How do we stop the Creator of the Universe from getting upset and killing us?’.

  2. Son of Glenner says:

    Just the way they’ve always done it!

    I like this strip – thanks, Author.

  3. Donn says:

    But wasn’t that later interpreted to really be ‘How to prevent the Creator of the Universe from torturing us for eternity in his Torture Palace’?

  4. Jim Baerg says:

    Here Brin mentions Heinlein’s proposal for the ethical issues of genetic engineering of humans.

  5. boyd s conklin says:

    empathy and forgiveness drug = soy
    soy + boy = soyboy = girl

  6. M27Holts says:

    I was given a pamphlet on saturday in Bolton. It informed me that all of the modern scientific facts discovered in the 20th an 21st centuries, are in fact foretold in full in the holy Quran. I have read the english translation, didnt see any maths at all…so howcome the muslims claim that quantum mechanics is described by the geezers who created the worthless waste of paper?

  7. Forteatwo says:

    The Mormons have the ultimate system for addressing modern ethical questions in that they do not have to consult scripture in search of vague answers or resort to circular reasoning of ethical dilemmas. They employ a flexible dogmatism wherein the Mormon God “talks” directly to the president who in turn passes this “divine directive” on to 12 elders known as the Quorum of 12. They did this recently when the Mormon god told them he did not care for the Mormon name anymore, that it had negative connotations and he decided to change it to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, dropping the Mormon and LDS monikers.

  8. doug says:


    Several years back a Muslim bozo by the name of Hamza Tzortzis ambushed P.Z. Myers outside of an atheist convention in Ireland. He set about to try to tell PZ about how accurately the Quran described human fetal development. He didn’t know that PZ is a developmental biologist. He changed the subject.

    There are videos on the web.

  9. Someone says:

    Trying to search for practical answers to modern dilemmas in draconian, outdated books would be like trying to comb the desert in Spaceballs.
    “Find anything yet?”
    “We ain’t found shit!”

  10. European says:

    @doug: The Quranic embryology is standard Greek medicin (Galen of Pergamon, 2nd century AD).
    This website (in German, I’m afraid) documents all the sources the writers of the Qur’an drew from, a vast gamut of late Ancient texts

  11. European says:

    Strange: edited a few typos, saved, but the published post still has the mistakes. Anyway, should be understandable enough…

  12. doug says:

    PZ tried very hard to make the point that the description of embryonic development matched that which had be described long before the Quran was written. It may well have been the case that this was known to Mohammed, but I also wonder if it wasn’t much simpler – what was described is more or less the reverse process of what happens when an animal is eaten. If it comes apart in this sequence, then it obviously must have been formed in the opposite sequence.

    One of the really amusing things in one of the videos is that Tzortzis describes how the Quran lays out a sequence of events, this then this then this, in the development, then PZ says that that is wrong and that the things described are happening essentially all at once. Tzortzis then proudly announces that the Quran is still correct because some Arabic word in the description can also mean simultaneous. (I’ve seen this elsewhere – Arabic being described as a very rich language because a particular word can have a bunch of quite different meanings, which to me says the language is very impoverished because it has to re-use a small set of words instead of having a large set to draw on to clearly express meaning.)

    In any case, this omnimax deity that is so popular seems to have done a remarkably dismal job in his contributions to any of the four major handbooks that supposedly lay everything out. His failure to correctly predict the future and set down rules therefor rather tarnishes his omni status. Of course that helps to keep the priest classes busy.

  13. jb says:

    According to Google there are 6,236 verses in the Quran. And let’s say there are, oh, maybe 1,000,000 significant scientific facts. That means you can form 6,236,000,000 combinations of verse/fact. Given that number, one can expect that at least some of these combinations would kinda, sorta seem to make sense, as though a Quranic verse anticipated a scientific fact.

    And it isn’t all that hard to find those combinations either: if you are familiar with the Quran and have a decent knowledge of modern science and you are looking for connections it’s fairly easy to look at a verse and say “hey, this sort of sounds like that thing I read about.” Then you compile a list and confound the unbelievers!

    (Works for the Bible too!)

  14. paradoctor says:

    Modifying the kids? If it’s to cure genetic diseases, then a strong ‘yes’, with a small caveat that some genetic diseases are also adaptations. (Note sickle-cell.) If it’s to enhance, well maybe, if you’re not making a new species. I might give the Martian colonists a pass. If it’s to create a race of dominant superhumans, then over my dead body and the kid’s, have I made myself clear?

    Thinking machines? Well, what is thought? I say that ship has already sailed. But do they suffer? Well, so do we. Is this to create cybernetic symbionts? Then welcome, silicon friends! But if it’s made to dominate, then again I say, over my dead body and its.

    Empathy drug? In moderation only, and voluntary. And a strong militant ‘NO’ for any anti-empathy drug.

  15. M27Holts says:

    JB. That is the nostradamus effect…However there is no periodic table nor standard model or in fact any mathematical formulae of any sorts…Yet the pamphlet insisted that ALL the modern quantum findings are in the quran…I wiped my arse with it….

  16. Troubleshooter says:

    What about a drug or therapy which caused the subject to think more rationally and be less prone think illogically or draw conclusions solely on emotion? I’d LOVE to see what J&M would have to say about THAT!

  17. Son of Glenner says:

    Troubleshooter: J&M would obviously disapprove of the drug/therapy you describe, but it would be fascinating to see what arguments they would use against it.

  18. Someone says:

    Son of Glenner, I can actually picture them arguing that such a drug would inhibit one’s free will, and that this goes against the nature of man, effectively turning the person into a mind-controlled zombie of sorts.
    The obvious and natural solution would be to freely submit to (insert god of choice) as his “teachings” provide all the logic and rationale one needs to function in modern and polite society.

  19. postdoggerel says:

    M27Holts, “hey, this sort of sounds like that thing I read about.” https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-34125840

  20. Troubleshooter says:

    Here’s the problem, guys:

    Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
    — Proverbs 3:5

    Yahweh doesn’t want us to think. He wants us to trust HIM … this “capriciously malevolent bully,” who screwed up his own creation beyond any recognition, yet insists on being worshipped without condition. Now, WHY would I put my life in the hands of such an incompetent fool?

  21. postdoggerel says:

    Troubleshooter, perhaps your dilemma is “nothing more than a confused concept of freedom in the realm of feelings and wants.” – the Congregation for Catholic Education https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/vatican-office-calls-gender-theory-confused-concept-guide-catholic-schools-n1015846

  22. M27Holts says:

    Since all religion is based on a failed hypothesis. Its about time its significance was removed from all parts of education and parents should be prosecuted for telling children that the religious garbage they spout is truth….ENOUGH OF THE NONSENSE!

  23. Troubleshooter says:

    I have no dilemma, postdoggerel. What I DO have, indeed what we all have, is a bad case of an anachronistic organization attempting to assert an assumed authority in the face of its own decline and loss of power. Considering the Vatican’s apparent dependence on tradition and holy writ, their dismissal of gender fluidity is a predictable and simplistic response to what has been recognized as a far more nuanced and complex issue. It is rather like the politicians who wish to dismiss anthropogenic climate change, saying, “I’m not a scientist, but…” when they should have quit after the word, “scientist.”

    If anyone has a problem, it’s the Catholic Church. The question becomes whether or not they have the capacity to recognize that crap like this amounts to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

  24. Solo Hands says:

    “Thinking machine”? Well, Ms. Barmaid, first prove to me that you “think”, then show me that machines that do the same are even possible.

    An empathy-pill? I have empathy but I will never be a doctor. I hate being around sick people as I don’t have a magic faith-healing power that will fix them. Nor would I make a very good wartime General as I would hesitate to drive people into harm’s way. Empathy can be a bitch and a limiter.

    Improving human health, even by eradicating the sickle-cell thing? Why not? I am sure Type One diabetics and C.S. families, among many others would have few objections, so long as the “cures” were additive. The sickle-cell and malaria issue could be dealt with by making humans immune to malaria. That’s a win for everyone.

    Superhumans? Why not? So long as the viral coefficient that added to the genome was available to every parent for every child. A sub-species of supermen would probably not be nice but a shift in the entire species may be.

    As I may have hinted at in the above response to an empathy-pill, an anti-empathy pill could be useful for warriors. Whether we should need warriors is, of course, another debate.

    The BBC website recently reported on a long-term “cure” for deep depression. It is somewhat like the wirehead phenomenon described in the “Known Space” [and more specifically in the “Gil The Arm” sub-series] series of novels and short stories started by Larry Niven.

    In the SF tales, wireheading is seen as a scourge on a par with massive drug abuse. Whether this becomes so in reality or not may depend upon whether anyone in “authority” ever reads the stories [doubtful, lawyers and other Little Picture types never seem to] or not. So far, the surgery isn’t seen as a moral nor ethical issue. That, as with aborting pregnancies or using otherwise useless stem cells which would only be discarded, could change.

    Morality and ethics are not merely of their time and milieu, they are also opportunistic platforms for the promoting of minor functionaries into the ranks of the elite.

    Abortion last week, wireheading next and if a recombinant DNA cure for diabetes is found perhaps that, too.

    No, leaving these issues to “the experts” is rarely a valid response. Dr. Mengele was an expert and Unit 731 [?] was crammed full of them.

    So, what is the answer? I don’t know. I do know that we should keep religions out of the arguments but that is as far as I get.

    Oh, and I also suspect that “moral issues” should rarely be decided only or mostly by those unaffected by them.


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